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 Anglican Diocese of the Living Word (ADLW) and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

Resurrection: The Foundation of Our Faith

Sermon delivered on Lent 5A, Sunday, March 29, 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 texts: Ezekiel 37.1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8.6-11; St. John 11.1-45.

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

Today we hold the final Scrutiny of our confirmands, where we pray for them and show them our love and support as they continue to grow in their relationship with Christ. As was the case previously, this sermon is aimed primarily at them, although the rest of us really need to hear what our lessons have to say. Specifically I want us to look at what it means to be resurrection peeps.

You recall that two weeks ago we saw that you are to die for in God’s loving eyes. As St. Paul taught us, we know that God became human (or in the language of the NT, God sent his Son) to die for us while we were still God’s enemies and unreconciled to him! God didn’t wait for us to change our ways or end our hostile feelings toward him before he sent his Son to die for us. Then last week we saw why we are to die for (besides the fact that God loves us so much). Christ’s death frees us from our slavery to the power of Sin (although we will all sin occasionally) so that we can once again be God’s image-bearers as God created and intended us to be. As his image-bearers, we shine the light of Christ’s goodness, truth, mercy, and love on a sin-sick world and its people, modeling for them how God wants us to think, speak, and behave as fully human beings, and inviting others to give their lives to Christ as we have. We also saw that because the world is so sin-sick and corrupted, we should expect to get a lot of opposition to living out our faith and proclaiming the truth of the gospel. Consequently, we should be prepared to suffer for Christ because he suffered for us and died to rescue us from permanent death and God’s awful but right judgment on our sin and everything evil in his world that corrupts and poisons his beloved creation and us. 

Today, despite the fact that we are still in the season of Lent, our readings point us to the culmination of Lent: Easter, with its joyous celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. If we don’t get the resurrection right, our faith will eventually fold like a bad poker hand, so it is critical for us to look at what it means to be resurrection peeps. We start with our OT lesson and the prophet Ezekiel’s spectacular vision of resurrection for God’s people Israel (you do remember that prophets were God’s spokesmen and women who proclaimed God’s truth to God’s people and often paid a heavy price for doing so because God’s people back then didn’t like hearing God’s truth any more than many of us do today!). While Ezekiel’s vision had more to do with God’s promise to return and restore his people from their exile in Babylon rather than the resurrection of the dead when Christ returns to finish the work he started in his mortal life, we can learn about the nature of resurrection from Ezekiel’s vision because it reminds us that resurrection is all about getting new bodies. Resurrection isn’t another term that refers to life after death (as in dying and going to heaven to live with Jesus) as a spirit without a body. Neither does resurrection mean being alive in some kind of spiritual sense where we remember our dead loved ones. No, resurrection refers to a new bodily existence where our mortal bodies are raised and transformed into immortal bodies and reunited with our souls who have been in the loving and protective care of Jesus during the time between our mortal death and the time he returns to raise our mortal bodies from their graves. As one theologian puts it, resurrection is life after life after death. Given the importance the Bible places on creation and creatures, this should make perfect sense to us. God created creation good and God created humans in his image to run his world on his behalf. Because God values creation so much we are promised God intends to put it to rights again. So when Christ returns to usher in God’s new world, it makes sense that we would have new bodies adapted to that new physical reality. More about God’s new world in a minute. What is critical for us to understand is that when we speak of resurrection, we are speaking of new bodily existence. Bodies matter to God because they belong to God. After all, he sent Jesus to rescue us from all that can destroy our mortal bodies (sin and other kinds of evil). Bodies therefore had better matter to us as well. As St. Paul reminds us, our body is a temple in which God’s Holy Spirit lives (1 Cor 6.19-21). Think about that. What a privilege! That’s why we are to take care of our bodies and not abuse them. One day God is going to raise them from the dead and transform them into immortal bodies! That’s why, e.g., we are being faithful to Christ during this pandemic when we follow medical advice to prevent the disease from spreading. 

St. Paul also focuses on the bodily nature of resurrection in our epistle lesson. He tells us that when we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who by his death has taken away our death by breaking Sin’s power over us and promising to raise us from the dead just as God his Father raised him from the dead, we are given the Holy Spirit to help direct and guide us in the living of our days in ways that please God. So even though our mortal bodies die, we are promised new life in the form of new bodies when Christ returns to raise us from the dead. This is the work of the Spirit and it is God’s free gift to us. None of us can earn it nor do any of us deserve it. St. Paul says something remarkably similar in his first letter to the Corinthians. Hear him now:

Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ

(1 Corinthians 15.42-44a, 50-57, NLT).

Notice first St. Paul’s emphasis on new bodily existence. Resurrection is about a new physical existence in bodily form. But what does he mean by a spiritual body? Isn’t that the opposite of a mortal body? Well no it isn’t. In the Greek, when St. Paul talks about a spiritual body, he uses the words pneumatikon soma and he uses the words psychikon soma to refer to mortal bodies like we have now. Any time a Greek adjective ends with the suffix -ikon, it doesn’t describe the nature or type of body but rather that which animates or powers the body. So just like our heart and lungs provide animation for our flesh and blood bodies (and when those organs stop functioning our mortal body dies), so St. Paul is telling us the Holy Spirit will power and animate our resurrection bodies so that they become immortal—you can’t kill the Holy Spirit so he never stops animating our new bodies— and equipped to live in God’s new world, the new heavens and earth. Again, notice carefully that St. Paul is not talking about living apart from our bodies. That’s why death isn’t fully conquered until God’s new creation comes in full and our bodies are raised from the dead. While it is true that our loved ones who have died in Christ are alive and their souls are with him now, they are still dead because they haven’t received their new bodies yet. When they do get their new bodies patterned after the body of Christ raised from the dead, death will finally be destroyed, thanks be to God!

Now it is true that we don’t know exactly what God’s new world will look like because it has not yet come in full. But we get glimpses of it in this mortal life when we gather at Christ’s table to celebrate Holy Communion each week and when we live our lives in ways that please God the Father. What we can say with confidence about God’s new world is this. It will be more spectacular than we can imagine (and if we can’t imagine it at all, that’s a problem with our imagination, not the reality of the promise as many claim who don’t believe in the resurrection of the body). But it will be a world where no evil exists because it will be a world where heaven and earth are joined together and evil cannot exist in God’s direct presence (Rev 21.1-8). That’s why believing we are forever washed clean by Christ’s blood shed for us on the cross is an essential Christian belief. Without it, none of us could hope to live in God’s direct presence because we all have sinned and committed evil in our lives. Neither will there be any sickness or death that we have to worry about. Death is abolished at the resurrection. Remember? Nor will there be any sorrow or fear or alienation. We’ll not have to worry if we are loved and accepted because we will know we are, and we will be part of a huge family who will love us and enjoy us as we will love and enjoy them. We will be reunited with our loved ones who have died in Christ and we will get to see them, hold them, talk with them, hear them, touch them just like we did when they were alive in their mortal bodies. We will feel the peace and presence of God all the time and we will be given meaningful work to do as his human image-bearers. We won’t ever worry if God loves us because we will enjoy sweet fellowship with him the way Adam and Eve did before they rebelled against God. Whatever all that looks like, it will be so utterly beautiful that we will want to pinch ourselves and ask if it’s real because it feels too good to be true. Trust me. It’ll be real. Christ himself promises this as we see in our gospel lesson today.

I don’t have the time to explore all this lesson teaches us so I’ll point out three things. First, we read a part of this lesson at Christian funerals and it’s easy to see why. We notice first our Lord’s attitude toward death. Even though he knows that he will raise his friend Lazarus from death, Jesus is so indignant about the evil of death that he snorts in anger at his friend’s tomb (the translation we use says Jesus was greatly disturbed, but that doesn’t really get at what’s going on in the Greek; Jesus snorted in anger and it should therefore be easy for you to imagine him snorting in anger when awful things happen to you). So if you have ever wondered if Jesus wants us to die, there’s your answer: NO!! Jesus loves us and wants us to live with him forever!

Second, we notice that resurrection isn’t a concept. It’s a person and his name is Jesus. If you want to enjoy resurrection life in God’s new world, you’ll only get to do so by uniting yourself with Jesus! Last, we notice that in this story we get an imperfect glimpse of our future. Jesus calls Lazarus from the grave and new life is poured into his friend. This isn’t resurrection in its true sense because we know Lazarus eventually died again and waits along with the rest of us to be raised or transformed with new bodies. But it serves as a preview of what Jesus is going to do in full on the last day when he returns to bring in God’s new world. Bodies matter to God. It’s embedded in the story. Jesus didn’t raise Lazarus’ spirit. He raised Lazarus’ body. So take care of your body because it belongs to the Lord. You’ve been baptized and you are giving your lives to Christ so you have God’s assurance that while you are united with Jesus in a death like his, you will also be united in a resurrection like his when he raises you from the dead one day (Romans 6.3-5). 

This is our resurrection hope, my beloved confirmands. This is your hope and future (hope being defined as the sure and certain expectation of things to come, not wishful thinking). Your destiny and future is life, not death. That’s why Christians need not fear opposition or dangers in this life. That doesn’t mean we are to live recklessly. It means that we shouldn’t fear dying because we know that our mortal death is only temporary and that death one day will be destroyed forever by the love and power of God made known to us in Jesus Christ. That makes it easier to be Christ’s light in this world!

But we also know that resurrection is our future hope. It’s not here yet and sometimes in this mortal life (like now) we can become afraid and very anxious. Like the psalmist in our lesson, we cry out in desperation to God and wonder if God’s promises are true, if God really isn’t angry with us. It’s OK to wonder that, my beloved, because we all do from time to time. When we do, we also need to take our cue from the psalmist and remember the promises and mercy of God demonstrated supremely in Christ’s death and resurrection. I personally know the things I have told you about the resurrection of the body are true first and foremost because I know Jesus Christ is raised from the dead!  It’s an historical fact and it validates God’s promises in a very powerful way! And so, when I am afraid, I remind myself (with the help of the Spirit) to put all my trust in Christ by remembering he is raised from the dead and is alive at God’s right hand so that he hears my cries and knows my fears. I give thanks that because I belong to Jesus through my baptism and faith, imperfect as the latter is, I can trust his promises about the future and I am calmed and sustained by my resurrection hope and future. May you also learn to embrace that hope in the living of your days. 

But I want to go even further than that. Our resurrection hope and future is so fantastic that you, like the rest of us, will need to spend a lifetime asking God to show you how he wants you to live out your resurrection faith in your life starting today. Whatever that looks like, it will surely involve pointing others to your crucified and risen Savior who loves you dearly and on whom your life is founded and your eternal future in God’s new creation is made secure. Remember, you are resurrection peeps no matter what comes in this mortal life of yours. You can stake your life on it because you know Jesus Christ is raised from the dead and he calls you to be his forever. Can there be any better hope than that? To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

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

From Darkness to Light

Sermon delivered on Lent 4A, Sunday, March 22, 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 texts: 1 Samuel 16.1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5.8-14; St. John 9.1-42.

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

Today we hold the second of three scrutinies of our confirmands, where we pray for them and show them our love and support as they continue to grow in their relationship with Christ. As was the case last week, this sermon is aimed primarily at them, although the rest of us need to hear what our lessons have to say. Specifically I want us to look at what it means to be the light of Christ.

You recall that last week we saw that you are to die for in God’s loving eyes. As St. Paul taught us, we know that God became human (or in the language of the NT, God sent his Son) to die for us while we were still God’s enemies and unreconciled to him (we live in the dark)! God didn’t wait for us to change our ways or end our hostile feelings toward him before he sent his Son to die for us. No, God knew what needed to be done on our behalf so that we are no longer slaves to the power of Sin. This reminds us that while God will ultimately not tolerate any kind of evil that erases his image in us, God does not want to see us have to face his anger and judgment on human sin and evil. God created us to be his forever and to reflect his image out into the world to heal and refresh it, and for God to receive the praises of creation through us. This is what we will be doing in God’s new creation after Christ returns to raise us from the dead and finally put an end to every kind of evil so that nothing can harm us ever again. This is what St. Paul is getting at in our epistle lesson when he recites what was probably an ancient Christian hymn: Wake up sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light. In God’s new world, the new heavens and earth, we will get to live directly in God’s presence with all its benefits. More about that next week. For now, it is enough for us to ponder God’s spectacular love for us made known in Christ’s death on our behalf.

So what is to be our response to God’s great gift of life and mercy and forgiveness and love and grace (undeserved forgiveness and love, among others)? St. Paul tells us in our epistle lesson. We are to be Christ’s light in this dark world, to embody God’s love for his creation and creatures. But what does that mean? It means first and foremost that we desire to live our lives in the way God wants us to live them. Being a Christian is first and foremost a lifestyle where we pattern our lives after Jesus. Our Lord summarized this for us when he reminded us that living our lives the way God wants us to live so that God’s image shines brightly in our thinking, speaking, and behaving means that we are to love God above all others, even our family and friends, and to love others as we love ourselves. We are not to live this way out of some sense of obligation or because we think we have to, but because we remember we are to die for in Christ’s eyes and have been freed from our slavery to Sin and Death to care and work for the best for everyone we encounter in our lives, just like Jesus did and does for us. In other words, we seek to become like Jesus in our thinking, speaking, and actions because we have a grateful heart for all that Jesus has done and does for us. As God reminds us through his spokesman Samuel (that’s what prophets are, spokespersons for God), God sees our hearts, the very center of our will and being, and so he knows our motives for speaking, thinking, and behaving as we do. He knows whether we love him or are just trying to follow the rules. Rules are important, but they are no substitute for love, the kind of love that wants and works for the best for ourselves and those we love, “best” defined of course by God, not us. 

So what does that look like in real life? Here are a couple of examples. If you follow social media at all you know there are a lot of self-righteous, judgmental people who criticize others and attack those with whom they disagree. They don’t care about the welfare or well being of anyone but themselves or their positions and they are willing to attack others over almost anything. If you have ever had anyone make fun of you or criticize who you are, you know how hurtful that is. We may not agree with a person’s thinking or behavior, but we have no basis for attacking the person. So we are called to reach out to others and love them no matter what. That’s hard to do for all of us because when we disagree with others, we want to ignore them or do them harm. But that’s not how God treated us as we saw last week. We were all God’s enemies, but he loved us enough to bring us back into his loving arms again, even before we knew that’s where we needed to be. So if you have a social media account, you are to behave in ways that reflect God’s love. 

Or consider how afraid people are with this coronavirus plague. When we are afraid, we do desperate, selfish things to protect ourselves. People hoard products we all need, for example, and refuse to help others who might be in need. This is what the Bible calls living in darkness; we don’t have a real relationship with God. If we don’t believe that Christ died for us to save us from our sins and to free us from the power of death (even though our mortal bodies will die one day), we will live in fear and darkness because we remain unreconciled to God. But when we believe that we no longer have to be afraid of anyone or anything, not even our mortal death, because Christ died for us, it frees us to shine the light of Christ’s love on the world by making sure those around us are taken care of during this crisis. We’re not to act recklessly, but we are not to act out of fear either because we have nothing to fear anymore! So we call people up and check on them. We run errands for those who cannot get out of their house. We bring them food and water. We share our resources with those who need them but don’t have them (toilet paper, anyone)? This is what shining the light of Christ’s love on the darkness of the world looks like. When we do so, we expose the darkness of others as St. Paul tells us to do in our epistle lesson because we show that acting like Christ is the better way to live.

This can be hard work because while we are freed from Sin’s power over us, we will still act occasionally in ways that are contrary to the ways God wants us to act. When that happens, we ask God to forgive us and remember that Christ lives in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. As our psalm reminds us, we can count on Christ to be with us in all kinds of darkness, even the ultimate darkness of death, because he promises to be with us and God never lies. We believe that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and that his rod and staff are the two pieces of wood that made up his cross, the ultimate sign of God’s great love for us, despite all our messiness and messy lives. 

It is a great privilege to let Christ’s light shine in this dark world through us because we know that light brings Christ’s healing and life, forgiveness and peace. We also know that there are sadly many who want nothing to do with Jesus and they will hate those of us who try to live faithfully and imitate him. This has been the case from the beginning as we see in our gospel lesson. Jesus healed the blind man and in healing him, the blind man came to believe in him, first that Jesus was a prophet and later God’s Son. But there were many who hated the blind man because he decided to give his life to Christ and unbelievers ridiculed him and tried to get him to walk away from his life-giving relationship with Christ. The blind man’s opponents had a powerful weapon. They threatened to expel him from the place of worship he attended. Doing so would have been like all your family/friends turning against you and making fun of you and refusing to associate with you. This was such a powerful weapon that even the blind man’s parents passed the buck and refused to witness to Christ’s goodness and healing love because they did not want to be put out of their place of worship! Following Jesus is really hard because the world and its people are such a mess and many hate Jesus. 

But the blind man didn’t cave in and he discovered that after all the ridicule, all the suffering, all the name calling, Jesus stood by him and promised to do so in this world and the next. Nothing’s changed from Jesus’ day to our own and we all have to decide what is most important in our lives. Will we choose Jesus and life or will we reject Jesus and choose darkness and death? Will we count on Jesus to give us the courage and wisdom and power to love others and embody his love for them, even when they hate us, or will we cave to the pressure to fit in with others? This is a battle that is especially relevant to you at this point in your young lives. No one likes to feel shunned and we all want to be accepted, especially when we are young. And so the temptation is there for you to reject Jesus and his lifestyle for a lifestyle that can only bring sorrow, darkness, and ultimately death, just to fit in with others. But we are not to fear rejection because as Jesus tells us elsewhere, he has overcome the world and will be with us no matter what comes. Let us all resolve, therefore, to live like Jesus and to shine his healing love and light on the world around us. It’s never easy to follow Jesus but it is the best decision we can ever make because only in Jesus will we find our true heart’s desire to love and be loved. May you, my beloved confirmands, always find and shine the light of Christ around you as you live out your lives. 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 Further Word of Encouragement for Christians During the Pandemic

God [in Christ] is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change

Psalm 46.1-2a, NRSV

As news of covid19 continues to morph every day and we get bombarded with an increasing stream of bad news, do you (still) believe the passage above? In the face of all the bad news we hear, it is natural for us to become afraid. Our fear is exacerbated by our social isolation, a medical necessity, but with the capacity to have disastrous social, psychological, emotional, and spiritual side-effects on us. Our isolation has the tendency to make us even more afraid. And so I want to offer you another word of encouragement today. I will try to do so every week.

The eminent Anglican theologian, Professor Tom Wright, tells us the most common phrase in the Bible is “don’t be afraid.” This suggests there is plenty in our world to make us afraid and all of us understand that by now, if we didn’t before.

So what to do? I again quote above (slightly modified) from Psalm 46. But what should we do to prevent passages like this from becoming mere platitudes? The answer is as straightforward as it is complex. Our ability to trust in the Lord depends on whether we truly trust in God’s goodness, mercy, and power. If we believe God is a liar or is hostile to us or is against us, or is powerless to act, of course we will read passages like the one above as platitudinal. And if we really believe these things about God, then unfortunately we probably don’t have a real relationship with God.

But of course God is NOT a liar. It is impossible for God to lie as the writer of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us (Heb. 6.18). So what to do? Scriptures don’t have a lot to say as to why God allows things like this pandemic to happen. What the Bible tells us to do is to REMEMBER. The Jews were to remember the Exodus. The NT tells us we are to remember our own Exodus, Christ’s death and resurrection. We are also to remember the many times God has acted on our behalf in the living of our days.

If you read or listened to my sermon from Sunday you know that in God’s eyes you are to die for, and that is exactly what God’s Son did for us so that we can live and not have to worry about suffering God’s condemnation and permanent death. If we don’t believe in the truth and reality of Christ’s death and resurrection it will frankly be impossible for us to believe that God in Christ is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, we are all screwed. But Jesus is raised from the dead and so we are reminded that come what may from this crisis, death does not have the final word. We are people who have died and are raised with Christ by virtue of our baptism (Romans 6.3-5), and so life and new creation are our hope and future, not death and destruction. The virus may kill us, but even if it does, we know we are to die for in God’s loving eyes and tender mercy, and so we are not to be afraid because we know that like Christ, we will be raised to new life in God’s new world where there will be no such thing as pandemics or sickness, sorrow, or death.

Let us therefore encourage one another in our resurrection faith. Let us make sure that none of our faith community families is huddled at home, living in fear and isolation. Let us reach out and check on each other, and encourage each other. Pick 5 people from your faith community each week to call, comfort, and encourage. Check in on your neighbors and encourage them as well. Demonstrate you are a person of power who defies your natural inclination to be afraid. Don’t be foolish, but don’t be timid.

And let us all be prayer warriors. Hear the ancient Christian theologian, Tertullian (d. 225 AD), speak on the power of prayer:

“Prayer cleanses from sin, drives away temptations, stamps out persecution [and plagues?], comforts the faint-hearted, gives new strength to the courageous, brings travelers safely home, calms the waves, confounds robbers [a huge problem in Tertullian’s day], feeds the poor, overrules the rich, lifts up the fallen, supports those who are falling, [and] sustains those who stand firm,” Tertullian, On Prayer, 28-29.

We are all in need of courage, hope, comfort, strength, and perseverance during these days, my beloved, and we all need to be ardent and faithful prayer warriors. Let every single one of us resolve to ramp up our praying for the duration. Pray for God’s mercy, God’s healing, God’s protection, God’s strength, God’s perseverance, and God’s comfort during these desperate days. Remember God answers prayer more often than not through human agency. Resolve therefore to allow God to use you to embody his goodness, mercy, kindness, and strength.

May the Lord bless, protect, and defend you and yours during these desperate days. May you know the peace of Christ and experience his strength, love, and power in the living of your days.

St. Patrick’s Day 2020: 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. ManeySeventy seven 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.

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. 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.

God to You: You Are to Die For

Sermon delivered on Lent 3A, Sunday, March 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 texts: Exodus 17.1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5.1-11; St. John 4.5-42.

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

Today we hold the first of three scrutinies of our confirmands, where we pray for them and show them our love and support as they continue to grow in their relationship with Christ. As such, this sermon is aimed primarily at them, although hopefully we all can benefit from what the Scriptures have to say to us this morning. Specifically I want us to look at what real Christian faith looks like on the ground and how our faith always points to how real our relationship is with Jesus.

Is the Lord among us or not? This was the complaint of the ancient Israelites as they wandered through the desert on their way to the land God promised them. And if you have paid attention to the news of late, it seems many of us are still asking the same question. As infections from the coronavirus continue to spread, we are tempted to doubt whether God loves us or is among us. If God is all powerful and loving, why doesn’t God just protect us by getting rid of this virus?

But as our OT and psalm lessons make clear, we are not to put God to the test like that because in questions like this we are really questioning God’s faithfulness and goodness toward us as well as God’s great love for us. To be sure, our world is full of many things that tempt us to question God’s love for us and his ability to make all things right, the current coronavirus pandemic being the latest example. But that is not what was going on with the Israelites when they asked this question. 

Imagine you had been one of God’s people Moses led out of Egypt. That surely would have been a frightening and anxious time. Would the Egyptians, who were stronger than your people, try to prevent you from leaving by killing you or cutting off your escape route? Would you be better or worse off leaving? But God answered these questions in spectacular ways. You suddenly find yourself crossing the Red Sea, with walls of water piled high on either side of you. How is that possible? Why does the seabed feel like dry ground? And what’s with that pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, always leading the way? Then there was the bread from heaven, the manna, that mysteriously appeared each day so that you and your family wouldn’t starve to death. What’s up with that? Here’s the point. Had you been among God’s people back in the day, you would have seen multiple examples of God’s power, of God protecting you from harm so that his promise to bring you to a new land could be fulfilled. You witnessed all these things first hand! God knows you need to eat and drink and be protected from the desert heat and other dangers, and in some very spectacular ways God demonstrated his love and care for you as he brought you and your people out of Egypt.

Now here you are on your way, wandering in the desert and complaining that God has abandoned you and won’t get you to the promised land. Sure you are anxious and frightened. The wilderness is not for wimps! But God had proven his love for you and his ability to care for and protect you. So why the grumbling now? That was the problem from God’s perspective. He had cared for and protected his people because God called them to be his own. Now when the going got tough (again), the people questioned God’s love, faithfulness, and ability to protect and care for them despite what they had experienced. Apply this to your own life. Think of family or friends you know intimately and who know you just as well. You have demonstrated to them that you love and care for them in what you do for them, in behaving in ways that represent your family name in the best possible ways. Then all of a sudden out of the blue, they question your motives toward them and call your character into question. How would that make you feel? At that point, even though you remain friends and/or part of the family, you have effectively become enemies, at least for the moment.

This is what happened to the human race and God. Before they rebelled against God in paradise, Adam and Eve enjoyed a perfect relationship with God. They knew God was their Creator and Father and that they were his creatures and children. Genesis 3 describes this by telling us God walked constantly in the garden with Adam and Eve, indicating they enjoyed perfect friendship with God, something that is hard for us to imagine because none of us have ever experienced perfect friendship with God or anyone else. But it was different for Adam and Eve because they did what God asked them to and reaped the benefits. They weren’t worried or anxious about anything because they experienced God’s presence and love and goodness first hand. They knew God better than we know those we love the most. Adam and Eve were functioning in the way God intended for them. They reflected God’s goodness and love out into the world to sustain and nourish and refresh it. But that all changed when they rebelled against God and tried to be God instead of his creatures. The Bible calls that sin and every one of us has been infected by it ever since. We’re afraid of the coronavirus right now, but it won’t infect everybody and the worst it can do is kill the body, terrible as that is. But our infection from Sin makes us enemies of God who is the Source of all life and health and goodness, and if something isn’t done about it, we will all be cut off from God (die) forever because God in his great love for us cannot ultimately allow evil to continue.

We don’t like talking about this because we like to fool ourselves into thinking we can fix ourselves and our problems. We can’t. We might eventually find a cure for the coronavirus but we will never find a human cure for our rebellion against God. Sure, we can work to improve ourselves and with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, we can make good progress in getting rid of things that make us sick. But in this mortal life we will never be totally free from doing the things that makes us enemies of God and that is why some people really dislike the Christian faith because it doesn’t teach self-help and human solutions to the problems that make us most afraid and anxious. And so we keep testing God and asking if he really cares about us or has the power to help us solve problems we care most about because we really want to do things our way. Every one of us has felt this way and when that happens, it demonstrates that deep down we really don’t trust God. And if we don’t trust God, why would we want to act like God wants us to act, especially if we think we know better? Yet the ancient Israelites wanted to return to their slavery in Egypt. We Christians often want to return to our slavery to Sin. This demonstrates they and we don’t know any better!

But here’s the thing. The God who led his people out of Egypt and through the Red Sea is the same God we worship. So what mighty acts of power has God done for us to prove he loves us and has the ability to save us from all that makes us afraid? The death and resurrection of Christ. St. Paul makes an astonishing claim in our epistle lesson from Romans today. He tells us at just the right time, while we were still God’s enemies, Christ died for us to break the power of Sin over us, the very thing that makes us God’s enemies in the first place. St. Paul didn’t say that we had to turn away from our sins or feel bad about them or ourselves before Christ died for us. In fact, as we’ve seen, there’s nothing we can do to rid ourselves from Sin’s infection. No, God acted independently on our behalf, even before we realized we needed help, so that we no longer have to fear being his enemies or be afraid of dying! In other words, God reconciled us to himself on the cross of Jesus. End of story. We did nothing to deserve or earn this life-giving favor. God did it out of his great love for us and his desire that we be reconciled to him so that we could enjoy life to its fullest. The story of the Bible is not about us seeking God, but God seeking us because of God’s great love for us!

Think about the person you dislike most in your life (hopefully he is not preaching to you at the moment). Would you be willing to give your life for that person? St. Paul doesn’t think you would and neither do I. Sure, there might be an exception or two to this rule, but for the most part, what do we do to people who are our enemies? We shun them and have bad thoughts toward them. We don’t wish them well. We hope bad stuff happens to them. Now imagine that person one day acted unexpectedly to save your life and in the process, actually gave his or her life for yours. Would that not change how you feel toward that person forever? Wouldn’t you feel a sense of love and gratitude for that person and desire to act in ways that would honor the person’s memory? 

This is what St. Paul is telling us to do in our epistle lesson. When by the grace of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we realize the gift God has given us, the gift of eternal life and release from our slavery to Sin so that we are free to love God and others just like Jesus did for us, we will experience God’s peace, a peace you’ll always want to possess once you’ve experienced it. We no longer have to worry if God loves us. He’s already demonstrated that in Christ’s death for us, despite the fact that we were enemies of God at the time. He gives us his Spirit to continue his healing work in us and to make himself known to us. He invites us to grow in our relationship with him and demonstrate our faith and trust in him to care for us, come what may in this life, by imitating Jesus in our lives. This is what faith on the ground looks like. This is your challenge and ours, my beloved confirmands. Embrace the love of Christ and walk with him everyday. If you need reminded of God’s love for you in Christ, talk with your family and your parish family. We’ll remind and encourage you. And when you stumble along the way, as you surely will, don’t worry. Jesus is always willing to help you to overcome that which sickens you because he created you to be his own forever. Remember that Jesus typically works through other humans, especially those in your family, so trust Christ enough to share your struggles with us so he can use us to help you work through them. We will weep with you and embrace you in your failures and sorrows as well as your happiness and successes. If you allow us this privilege of sharing Christ’s love with you, you will come to know Jesus even more deeply in the process. May the Father always give you the grace to continue to grow in your knowledge of Christ this Lent and throughout your lives. Doing so will help you accept his love for you and strengthen your ability to believe his promise to you that you are his forever. Then you will surely know the truth that God in Christ is your refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. Be of good cheer, my beloved. Christ has overcome the world for you. We who believe in him are his enemies no longer. After all, you are to die for in God’s eyes. 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 Word of Encouragement for Christians During the Coronavirus Pandemic

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change.

Psalm 46.1-2a, NRSV

If you are a Christian, do you believe the passage from Psalm 46 that I quote above? If you do, I encourage you to put your faith into action by practicing what you believe. We are bombarded with all kinds of bad and scary news about the coronavirus of late and I encourage you not to succumb to the fear that it naturally engenders. We are Christians. We are therefore people of power, God’s power. As Christians we have a resurrection hope and future. We believe that come what may, because of God’s great love for us made known in Jesus Christ, crucified and raised from the dead, not even death can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8.31-39). A glorious future awaits us in God’s new creation. Let this hope and promise, the very promise of God, sustain you during these uncertain times. Resist the temptation to be afraid. If God is for us, who (or what) can possibly be against us? 

As you rely increasingly on the Lord’s power to protect you and keep you from being afraid, encourage each other in the faith because we all become afraid from time to time and we need each other’s encouragement and support. For starters, spend less time watching the news and more time reading your Bible and encouraging each other. Stay up with the latest developments, but don’t wallow in the bad news. Instead, go to God’s Word to be refreshed, calmed, and strengthened during these uncertain days. In addition to the verses I quoted above, read Psalms 23, 27, 42-43, 46, 77, 91, and 103 for starters. If you find yourself overwhelmed, make Psalm 130 your prayer and strengthen each other with these passages. Don’t be afraid! We are people with a Power far greater than anything the world can throw at us! Jesus Christ himself has promised that he has overcome the world for us (St. John 16.32-33). Dare we doubt him and fall into panic and fear? 

We have a wonderful opportunity during this pandemic to proclaim our faith to a fearful world shrouded in darkness and uncertainty. Let us therefore proclaim our resurrection faith in love and service to each other and to those around us who need Christ’s love made known in and through us. We are not to be reckless and put the Lord to the test, but neither are we to be timid and fearful. Why? Because “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change.” Commit this verse to memory and pray it often, especially when you are tempted to fall into fear. Likewise, pray the Lord’s Prayer regularly (it’s been suggested we do this as we wash our hands) and trust that God does indeed hear our petition to deliver us from evil and acts on our behalf for our good. May God bless you and yours during these difficult days.

March 10, 2020: 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.

George Herbert: Love

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here.”
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord, but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it deserves.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I must serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

The Temple

Father Philip Sang: Sin and Death, Grace and Life

Sermon delivered on Lent 1A, Sunday, March 1, 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 texts: Genesis 2.15-17, 3.1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5.12-19; St. Matthew 4.1-11.

12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—

17For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

18Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Romans 5.12-19

My Dearest Brothers and Sister in Christ,

There are many times in this life that we like to be in control as much as possible. But when we look around us, we realize we can’t control much else. We can’t control the weather. We can’t control the future, and that list goes on. As much as we plan and like to think we are in control, the Lord reminds us in the book of James: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (JAMES 4:14). This is the theme that runs this time of lent “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return”. Thus, Scripture describes our lifetime. In the big picture of things during our lifetime, no matter whether our life is long or short, it is like a mist in comparison to eternity, and in comparison to the rest of the world.

Today, our text reminds us as Paul points out that mankind is not in control. We are not in control since Adam and Eve first sinned, because by mankind’s disobedience, this brought into the world sin and death. Thankfully, mankind is not in control concerning salvation, for God’s plan of salvation through His Son Christ Jesus and His perfect obedience provides grace and life.

I want us to look at this two things today:

  1. Mankind’s disobedience brings sin and death.
  2. Christ’s perfect obedience brings grace and life.

Mankind’s disobedience brings sin and death

As you heard the reading of our text this morning, you probably have already picked up on the discouraging parts. It is almost 50/50 of the discouraging parts compared to the encouraging parts. The discouraging part is the fact that our world is no longer perfect. The discouragement is the fact that sin is in this world and is very much alive and well. Paul reminds us that “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners.” One man disobeyed; and because of that, the world became sinful. It uses the word many that sometimes some take that word and say, “Well, not everybody is a sinner. Some are good.” Only many were made sinners. But Paul explains so that there is no mistake. Before this Paul says: 18Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men. Now, he says not just for many, but also for all. That word “many” meaning all men suffer the result of the disobedience of the one man. He wants to make that point very clear.

So our epistle lesson began with that word: 12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned–. No one escapes. No one is born into this world sinless, but with sin. Then he says: 17For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man. The results of sin are very obvious–death came into the world. When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, the Lord’s plan for them was that they would live there forever, because it was already perfect. It already was heaven on earth, but they disobeyed. Perfection came to a crashing halt. That is the one man who disobeyed. That one man who committed sin is our very first parent. Since that time you and I have inherited sinfulness. Sinfulness has been passed down from Adam and Eve to every generation and will be until the end of time.We cannot dismiss sin as just a sickness or bad behavior. We cannot explain it away by saying the rest of the world is doing, so what is so bad about it? Sin is alive and well. We see it in our society. We see it in the way our nation reacts. Those who stand up for the truth on national TV are considered extremists and right-wing Christian radicals when they speak against same-sex marriage. Yet, homosexuality is another sin. It is another sin that the world tries to sweep under the rug, a sin that the world tries to dismiss and sanitize and cover up. Scripture reminds us we are sinners: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins” (ECCLESIASTES 7:20).

Because of Adam and Eve, we are out of control. We are born with sin. Sin infects us all. Sin affects us all. Sin has defected the world and all of us living in this world. The Psalm writer, actually David, in Psalm 51 says: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (PSALM 51:5). David writes, “There is when I began sinning. Even before I drew an earthly breath outside the womb, I was a sinner.” David says, “I was a sinner from the moment of conception.” In this way the Lord shows us when life begins. As soon as life begins on this earth, at the very moment of conception, there is sin attached to it; and there is no escape.

Sin is a word that many in our world around us do not like to hear. How do we know that sin is here? We know because our text says sin is here, disobedience is here, and death is here. Again, no one in this world ever escapes death, which is a result of sin. Adam and Eve were going to die now, because the world was no longer perfect. Who wants to live in this world especially when it is so imperfect, especially when we are so imperfect, especially when we have feelings of hatred and anger and rage because of sin? Sometimes those feelings and emotions are just like the text points out, “We are out of control.” The Prophet Ezekiel says: “For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son–both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die” (EZEKIEL 18:4). We face death, which means we have sinned. Everyone faces death, and therefore, everyone sins. Mankind is not in control, just as we are not in control of the time of our departure, so we were not in control with the time we were born–born with the infection of sin.

Now, we want to remember, as believers we are in control. We are in control of resisting the sins that are around us. We can avoid sin. We can overcome sin. We can defeat sin by the power of God; but the sin that we are born with is there. We cannot deny it. In that sense mankind is out of control because the disobedience of our first parents and our disobedience still brings sin into this world and eventually death.

Still, we can celebrate during Lent. We celebrate today the fact that Christ’s perfect obedience provides us with grace and life. We do not suffer eternal death but are given eternal life. That is the second part of each one of these verses from 17, 18 and 19.

Christ’s perfect obedience provides grace and life

Yes, Paul says there is sin and death, disobedience and trespass, but what else? 19For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. Adam, the one man, brought sin into the world; and now there is another man who was sent into this world and brought righteousness. Instead of being cast out from the Garden of Eden forever, He has provided for mankind heaven that is far better than any kind of perfection found here on earth.

Then Paul lets us know who this one man is, even though our text did not mention Adam by name, but here he says: God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. It is Christ–the one Man–who brings into this world righteousness. It is Christ–the one Man—who brings into this world the forgiveness of sins and life and salvation. In that comparison just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. So again, he defines for us where it says, many will be made righteous. When Jesus died on the cross, He died for the sins of the world. Don’t be misled by those who say, “Well, just some are saved or a few are saved. Many, but not all, have their sins forgiven.” Listen to this: 18Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. The Lord’s sacrifice, the Lord’s gift of His life and blood on the cross was good enough to cover up the sins of everyone. It is true that not everyone who receives the benefit of eternity, because they harden their hearts.

Today you and I celebrate this, which is the Passion of the Christ, the Passion of our Christ. Yes, sin is in this world. It is always going to survive as long as people are born. There will be sin in this world, because man inherits sin and it is part of our nature. But sin is forgiven in this world through the gift of Christ, God’s own Son who paid for our sins. When Adam and Eve sinned, the Lord demanded justice, justice to pay for that sin and justice to pay for the sins of the world. God was so demanding that He demanded justice that only He could provide. The justice that God would provide came through His only Son, a sacrifice for sins. Paul writes to the people in Corinth: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 CORINTHIANS 5:21).Today you and I celebrate this, which is the Passion of the Christ, the Passion of our Christ. Yes, sin is in this world. It is always going to survive as long as people are born. There will be sin in this world, because man inherits sin and it is part of our nature. But sin is forgiven in this world through the gift of Christ, God’s own Son who paid for our sins. When Adam and Eve sinned, the Lord demanded justice, justice to pay for that sin and justice to pay for the sins of the world. God was so demanding that He demanded justice that only He could provide. The justice that God would provide came through His only Son, a sacrifice for sins. Paul writes to the people in Corinth: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 CORINTHIANS 5:21).Today you and I celebrate this, which is the Passion of the Christ, the Passion of our Christ. Yes, sin is in this world. It is always going to survive as long as people are born. There will be sin in this world, because man inherits sin and it is part of our nature. But sin is forgiven in this world through the gift of Christ, God’s own Son who paid for our sins. When Adam and Eve sinned, the Lord demanded justice, justice to pay for that sin and justice to pay for the sins of the world. God was so demanding that He demanded justice that only He could provide. The justice that God would provide came through His only Son, a sacrifice for sins. Paul writes to the people in Corinth: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 CORINTHIANS 5:21).

We, who are children of the devil by birth and by nature, are now called righteousness. As sinners we are declared righteous not because of what we have done, but because of the sacrifice of Christ. What made Jesus’ sacrifice so challenging is the fact that the God’s perfect Son came here in human flesh and blood to live in the world, to suffer and die, and even to be tempted by Satan. In our Gospel Lesson for today (LUKE 4:1-13) tells us how Satan tempted Jesus over and over again. Satan “quoted” Scripture, but in reality as you reread that, he misquoted Scripture. Jesus quoted Scripture correctly. We know that Satan tempted Him because this would be Satan’s last chance to totally destroy God’s plan of salvation. Yet, as we look at it, we see Jesus, God’s Son as he offers the perfect sacrifice. We also see Jesus, the Son of Man, overcomes every temptation for us. Isaiah says: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (ISAIAH 53:6). This again describes our inherited sinfulness and Christ’s sinlessness that is passed on to us.

We are not in control by saying to the Lord, “Here is my plan of salvation. I am going to buy my way into heaven.” We are not in control by saying to the Lord, “Here is my plan of salvation. I am going to work hard enough and do the best I can to earn my way into heaven.” None of us can buy or earn our way into heaven. We do not deserve to be there, but God’s plan of salvation according to Him is, “I will do all the work. I will send my Son to die in your place.” Therefore Paul says in Titus: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (TITUS 3:4,5).

Sunday after Sunday we are privileged to hear about the mercy of God. Day after day when we read our Bibles at home, we are privileged to see the mercy of God. We have seen our Savior’s passion. We have lived our Savior’s passion through God’s living and powerful Word. That reminds us that sure, we are not in control. When we look at our life, we are probably less in control than what we realize. Is it a reason to despair and throw up our hands and say, “What is the use?” No, it is the reason to rejoice and remember that even though we are not in control, God is in control. No one else, but God Himself! He is control even though our disobedience and our birth brings into this world more sin and eventually death. Our gracious God is in control to show us that His Son and His perfect obedience is our perfect payment and brings to us grace and life, not just on Sunday, but everyday of our life.

In the first letter of John: “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 JOHN 3:8). Now, the power of the devil has been destroyed; the power of sin has been destroyed; and the power of death has been overcome with Christ’s death and resurrection. We are not in control of that, but thankfully and praise God that He has decided for us that He wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Our loving Lord has decided for us, rather than stay here among sin and death forever, we will live with Him in grace and eternal life forever.

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

2020: Remembering Dad

My dad died sixteen years ago today. It seems like he has been gone forever and while the pain of his death is no longer with me, I still miss him today as much as I did on that Monday sixteen years ago when I learned that he had died. I miss hearing his voice. I miss his sense of humor. I miss his wisdom. I miss his presence in our family. I miss playing catch with him. I miss him.

I am thankful God blessed me with a wonderful father for 50 years of my life. My dad remains my personal hero in so many ways, not least in the quality of his fatherhood and all that that entails. He handled the daunting tasks of shepherding his family, running a business, and being a community leader. He led his life with integrity and optimism, always the telltale marks of a faithful Christian. In his last years, he faced his physical infirmity with courage and dignity that was both inspiring and heartbreaking to watch. Remarkable. Simply remarkable.

Thank you for being my dad. Life’s not the same without you, papa. Never will be again. I’m glad you are enjoying your rest in the Lord and look forward to seeing you again someday, never again having to endure the emptiness of being apart from you. That’s a good thing because even this temporary separation seems like an eternity. Can’t imagine what the real thing must be like.

In the meantime, I’ll try to honor you and your legacy by how I comport myself. As mom used to remind me, I’ll do my best to remember who I am (and to Whom I belong).

I love you, papa.