About Father Maney

The Venerable Dr. 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). In February 2020, Father Maney was appointed archdeacon by his bishop, The Right Reverend Julian Dobbs, to oversee the newly-formed Ohio Valley Archdeanery.

Advent Antiphons—December 22, 2021

From The Book of Common Worship’s Times and Seasons (p.58).

These antiphons, or refrains, all beginning ‘O …’, were sung before and after the Magnificat at Vespers, according to the Roman use, on the seven days preceding Christmas Eve (17–23 December). They are addressed to God, calling for him to come as teacher and deliverer, with a tapestry of scriptural titles and pictures that describe his saving work in Christ. In the medieval rite of Salisbury Cathedral that was widely followed in England before the Reformation, the antiphons began on 16 December and there was an additional antiphon (‘O Virgin of virgins’) on 23 December; this is reflected in the Calendar of The Book of Common Prayer, where 16 December is designated O Sapientia (O Wisdom). The Common Worship Calendar has adopted the more widely used form. It is not known when and by whom the antiphons were composed, but they were already in use by the eighth century.

22 December – O Rex Gentium

O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.

—cf Isaiah 28.16; Ephesians 2.14

Advent Antiphons—December 21, 2021

From The Book of Common Worship’s Times and Seasons (p.58).

These antiphons, or refrains, all beginning ‘O …’, were sung before and after the Magnificat at Vespers, according to the Roman use, on the seven days preceding Christmas Eve (17–23 December). They are addressed to God, calling for him to come as teacher and deliverer, with a tapestry of scriptural titles and pictures that describe his saving work in Christ. In the medieval rite of Salisbury Cathedral that was widely followed in England before the Reformation, the antiphons began on 16 December and there was an additional antiphon (‘O Virgin of virgins’) on 23 December; this is reflected in the Calendar of The Book of Common Prayer, where 16 December is designated O Sapientia (O Wisdom). The Common Worship Calendar has adopted the more widely used form. It is not known when and by whom the antiphons were composed, but they were already in use by the eighth century.

21 December – O Oriens

O Morning Star, splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

—cf Malachi 4.2

Advent Antiphons—December 20, 2021

From The Book of Common Worship’s Times and Seasons (p.58).

These antiphons, or refrains, all beginning ‘O …’, were sung before and after the Magnificat at Vespers, according to the Roman use, on the seven days preceding Christmas Eve (17–23 December). They are addressed to God, calling for him to come as teacher and deliverer, with a tapestry of scriptural titles and pictures that describe his saving work in Christ. In the medieval rite of Salisbury Cathedral that was widely followed in England before the Reformation, the antiphons began on 16 December and there was an additional antiphon (‘O Virgin of virgins’) on 23 December; this is reflected in the Calendar of The Book of Common Prayer, where 16 December is designated O Sapientia (O Wisdom). The Common Worship Calendar has adopted the more widely used form. It is not known when and by whom the antiphons were composed, but they were already in use by the eighth century. 

20 December – O Clavis David

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

—cf Isaiah 22.22; 42.7

Chaplain Tucker Messamore: Advent—The Four Last Things: Hell

Our Advent preaching series on the Four Last Things Concludes today. Sermon delivered on Advent 4C, Sunday, December 19, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Micah 5.2-5a; Psalm 16; 2 Thessalonians 1.5-12; St Matthew 25.31-46.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today, we are continuing our focus during this Advent season on the Four Last Things. So far, we have discussed death, judgment, and Heaven. And now, on this final Sunday of Advent, I have the dubious distinction of getting to talk with you about Hell. 

Hell is a difficult subject about which to preach. The doctrine of Hell is one of the most controversial tenets of the Christian faith, and delivering a sermon about Hell presents some serious pitfalls to preachers (these twin errors were famously identified by C.S. Lewis in his Preface to The Screwtape Letters, p. 3)

On the one hand, there is the danger of minimizing the doctrine of Hell. In fact, there are some who dismiss it completely. They contend that the concept of Hell is antiquated and the notion of God consigning human beings to eternal judgment is barbaric—better to dispense with it altogether, they’d say. But this simply won’t do. As C.S. Lewis writes in The Problem of Pain, the doctrine of Hell “has the full support of Scripture and, specifically, of Our Lord’s own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason” (p. 22). As difficult as the doctrine of Hell may be to reckon with, orthodox Christians can’t just write it off.

But then there’s an opposite yet equally dangerous error that preachers can fall prey to, and that’s overemphasizingthe doctrine of Hell. It’s possible for preachers to become so fixated on the terrors of Hell that the message of the gospel itself is overshadowed by vivid (and often speculative) descriptions of eternal suffering and torture. Those who are converted under such preaching nay come away with a shallow faith based solely on escaping the fires of Hell. Believers who are fed a steady of diet of “fire and brimstone” preaching may question their status before God and be fearful about their eternal destination.

This morning, as we look at what Scripture teaches about Hell, I hope that we can avoid these two pitfalls by both acknowledging the reality and horror of Hell while also holding forth the hope that the Advent of our Lord brings to hell-bound sinners.

As our readings for today illustrate, Scripture affirms both the existence and the horror of Hell. In our gospel lesson (Mt. 25:31-46), Jesus teaches that at the end of the age, He will separate the peoples of the earth into two groups—the sheep and the goats, the righteous and the unrighteous, the blessed and the accursed. These two different groups have two distinct destinations: the righteous will enter “into eternal life” (v. 46) while the unrighteous will depart “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (v. 41). This “eternal fire” is Hell, a place of punishment that our epistle reading tells us is set apart for “those who do not know God” and who “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:8).

Elsewhere, in his letter to the Romans, St. Paul makes it clear that all of us in our natural condition fall into this category. He tells us, “None is righteous, no not one; no one understands, no one seeks God” (Rom. 3:11). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Through both the created order and through His Word, God has clearly revealed what is right and wrong, and yet, left to our own devices, we defiantly choose evil rather than good, sin instead of obedience. Because God is righteous and perfectly just, He cannot and will not allow sin to go unpunished. Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages”—the consequences we have earned—for our “sin is death,” and not just physical death, but eternal death in Hell.

While Scripture does not provide us with a detailed account of the ins and outs of Hell, it gives us numerous images that convey its horrors. Throughout the New Testament, Hell is described as a place of “unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12), a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:42), a place of “torment” (Luke 16:23), “destruction” (Matt. 10:28), and “everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46). We get enough of a glimpse of Hell to know that it is a place of immense, ongoing suffering. I think this typically how we view Hell: as a place that God sends unrepentant evildoers as punishment for their sin.

But notice that our readings depict Hell through another lens as well. Jesus describes the final judgment not just as a separation of people form one another (into “sheep” and “goats”) but also as separation from Him, from God: “Depart from me into the eternal fire” (Matt. 25:41) and “these will go away into eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46). Similarly, in our epistle lesson, Hell is described not just as “flaming fire” and “eternal destruction,” but also as “separat[ion] from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might” (2 Thess. 1:9). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “The chief punishment of Hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.”

Yes, Hell is indeed a sentence imposed by God, the just judge, but when we think of Hell as separation from God, it becomes clear that Hell is also a choice—the natural conclusion of a life lived apart from God. John 3:19 frames Hell in this manner: “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” Any time we sin, we are choosing to separate ourselves from God. We are choosing darkness over light; we are choosing to go our own way rather than following God’s ways. 

This is the decision that Adam and Eve made in the Garden of Eden. Instead of living in obedience to God, they chose to go their own way and ate the forbidden fruit. On that day, all Hell broke loose on earth. We human beings have been following in their footsteps ever since. We chart our own courses thinking that we can find meaning, fulfillment, and joy through sinful pleasures and selfish pursuits. These things may bring temporary pleasure, they can never satisfy the deepest longings of our souls. Ultimately, following our own way will bring us misery, heartache, and pain; it makes our lives a living hell. So Eternal Hell—separation from God forever—is not just the punishment for our sin, but it’s one’s logical destination after a lifetime of distancing oneself from God through sinful choices.  

This is sorry state of humanity after the Fall: a hellish existence here on earth, and as we look toward eternity, all we have is “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” of God (Hebrews 10:27). 

But thanks be to God that He does not abandon us to this miserable fate. Instead, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son [to be] born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4).  In the Advent of Christ, we have a hope that is far more powerful than Hell.

Since the Fall, as we’ve seen, humans have been looking for meaning and fulfillment in all the wrong places, creating a kind of hell on earth. So what did God do? He entered into His creation! Heaven came down to us! St. Athanasius puts it like this in his classic work On the Incarnation: “Men had turned from the contemplation of God above, and were looking for Him in the opposite direction, down among created things and things of sense. The Savior of us all, the Word of God, in His Great love took to Himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their sense, so to speak, halfway. He became Himself an object for the sense, so that those who were seeking God in sensible things might apprehend the Father through the works which He, the Word of God did in the body.” (St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 43). Through His life, ministry, and teaching, Jesus pointed people back to God the Father. He showed that abundant life—true meaning, joy, and fulfillment—could only be found in Him (John 10:10).

But Jesus came not just to save us from hell on earth, but from eternal Hell, the judgment we deserve for our sin.  As the angel said when telling Joseph that Mary was with child, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21).  Jesus would ultimately accomplish this through His Passion. 

We confess in the Apostles Creed that Christ “descended into Hell.” There are different ways that believers interpret this article of the creed, but as Timothy George explains, “In essence, it means that in the sending and self-sacrifice of his Son, God himself has absorbed not only the penalty of sin but also its eternal consequences, the ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth.’” We could say that on the cross, Jesus experienced Hell for us. He was separated from God the Father—crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)—so that those who belong to Him wouldn’t have to be. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake He [became] sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” We who belong to Christ are clothed with His righteousness. This gives us the assurance that one day, “when the Son of Man comes in His glory” (Matt. 25:31), we will enter not into “eternal punishment,” but instead into “eternal life.” (Matt. 25:46).

Brothers and sisters, the Advent of Christ has changed everything. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again! And when He does, we need not fear a fiery judgment, for Christ has taken captive death and Hell. In Him, our hope for eternal life is secure. We can boldly proclaim with St. Paul, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).

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

Advent Antiphons—December 19, 2021

From The Book of Common Worship’s Times and Seasons (p.58).

These antiphons, or refrains, all beginning ‘O …’, were sung before and after the Magnificat at Vespers, according to the Roman use, on the seven days preceding Christmas Eve (17–23 December). They are addressed to God, calling for him to come as teacher and deliverer, with a tapestry of scriptural titles and pictures that describe his saving work in Christ. In the medieval rite of Salisbury Cathedral that was widely followed in England before the Reformation, the antiphons began on 16 December and there was an additional antiphon (‘O Virgin of virgins’) on 23 December; this is reflected in the Calendar of The Book of Common Prayer, where 16 December is designated O Sapientia (O Wisdom). The Common Worship Calendar has adopted the more widely used form. It is not known when and by whom the antiphons were composed, but they were already in use by the eighth century.

19 December – O  Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

—cf Isaiah 11.10; 45.14; 52.15; Romans 15.12 

Advent Antiphons—December 18, 2021

From The Book of Common Worship’s Times and Seasons (p.58).

These antiphons, or refrains, all beginning ‘O …’, were sung before and after the Magnificat at Vespers, according to the Roman use, on the seven days preceding Christmas Eve (17–23 December). They are addressed to God, calling for him to come as teacher and deliverer, with a tapestry of scriptural titles and pictures that describe his saving work in Christ. In the medieval rite of Salisbury Cathedral that was widely followed in England before the Reformation, the antiphons began on 16 December and there was an additional antiphon (‘O Virgin of virgins’) on 23 December; this is reflected in the Calendar of The Book of Common Prayer, where 16 December is designated O Sapientia (O Wisdom). The Common Worship Calendar has adopted the more widely used form. It is not known when and by whom the antiphons were composed, but they were already in use by the eighth century.

December 18 — O Adonai

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the ?re of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

cf Exodus 3.2; 24.12

Advent Antiphons—December 17, 2021

An antiphon is (in traditional Western Christian liturgy) a short sentence sung or recited before or after a psalm or canticle. Today begins the Advent Antiphons. But what are the “O Antiphons”? Below is an excerpt from the Catholic Education Resource Center by Father William Saunders. I wholeheartedly commend their use each of these seven days.

The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat [Song of Mary] during O-Antiphons_02Vespers [Evening Prayer] of the [Roman Catholic] Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.

The exact origin of the “O Antiphons” is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O SAPIENTIA (O Wisdom), O ADONAI (O Lord), O RADIX JESSE (O Root of Jesse), O CLAVIS DAVID (O Key of David), O ORIENS (O Rising Sun), O REX GENTIUM (O King of the Nations), and O EMMANUEL. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah.

Read the whole article.

December 17 — O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

cf Ecclesiasticus 24.3; Wisdom 8.1 

Father Philip Sang: Advent—The Four Last Things: Heaven

Our Advent preaching series on the Four Last Things continues today. Sermon delivered on Advent 3C, Sunday, December 12, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Zephaniah 3.14-20; Isaiah 12.2-6; Philippians 4.4-7; St. Luke 3.7-18.

May the words of my mouth and Meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you oh Lord our Rock and our Redeemer, in the Name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Amen

Christ has gone before us to prepare a dwelling place for us in heaven. He has made the arrangements for us. The apostle John writes that all these truths have been written in Scripture so that: “You may know that you have eternal life”.

A story is told of a missionary couple. After having served for decades in Africa, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Morrison, were returning to New York to retire.

After years of service, they had no pension, and their health was failing. They were worried and discouraged.

They happened to be on the same ship as Theodore Roosevelt, who was returning from one of his African hunting expeditions.

No one paid any attention to the missionary couple. They watched the fanfare that accompanied the President and his entourage.

During the voyage, the missionary said to his wife, “Something is wrong. We have given our lives in service to God in Africa for all these years and no one cares a thing about us. Here this man comes back from a hunting trip and everybody makes much over him, but nobody cares about us.”

When the ship docked in New York, a band was waiting to greet the President. The mayor and other dignitaries were there. The papers were full of news concerning the President’s arrival. Yet, No one was there for the missionary couple. They slipped off the ship and found a cheap flat on the East side.

That night the man said to his wife, “I can’t take this, God is not treating us fairly.” His wife replied, “Why don’t you go into the other room and tell that to the Lord? He did just that and returned some time later but his face was different.

His wife asked him what happened. “The Lord settled it with me,” he said. “I told Him how bitter I was that the President should receive this tremendous homecoming, when not one person met us at the dock.

And when I finished complaining, it seemed as though the Lord put His hand on my shoulder and simply said “You’re not Home Yet.”

Brothers and sisters, This earth is not our home.

Our fleeting years on this planet are but a small portion of our journey. There is another realm of life beyond this sphere. It is a place where we will know life in all its richness, in all its fullness.

As believers, and followers of Christ we are just pilgrims journeying to our heavenly home.

The Scriptures refer to us on this Earth as Strangers, Ambassadors, and Pilgrims!

Writing to the Church in Philippi, Paul said, “Our citizenship is in Heaven” (Philippians 3:20) Now Philippi was a Roman Colony and in these Colonies the citizens were predominantly soldiers who had served sometime in the service of the Empire and were rewarded with full citizenship. The great characteristics of these colonies was that, wherever you went in the empire, there remained fragments of the great capital of Rome.

A Roman dress was worn; Roman justice was administered; Roman magistrates governed; and Roman morals were observed.

In a political sense, the Philippians knew what it was to be citizens of a far-off city, a place where most of them had never even been.

On an immeasurably higher plane, believers belong to a “Heavenly City”. Through the use of this analogy, Paul was saying to the believers: Just as the Roman colonists never forget that they belong to Rome, you must never forget that you are citizens of heaven.

Therefore your conduct must match your citizenship.

Just before His impending death, Jesus spoke to His disciples about this place called heaven.

He left them with these reassuring words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And I go and prepare a place for you, so that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

When Jesus shared that there was a dwelling place being prepared for us, “in my Father’s house,” it changed forever the whole character of the abode of the dead. No longer was death to be viewed as a journey to an unknown and frightening destination.

For the first-time, people were able to see death as a going home. Going home to the Heavenly City. Going Home to their Heavenly Father. Going Home and entering into the presence of their Creator where all would be joy, where all would be peace, where all would be love”.

It was seen by these believers as the place where they would be reunited once again with loved ones and friends who had died in Christ.

“In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places.”

The Greek word translated ‘dwelling places’ also means ‘abiding places.’

And this was a very familiar image for the people of this time.

It was customary for traveling dignitaries in those days to send some of their party on, in advance to find lodging and make arrangements for them in the distant cities.

Many times, a disciple went ahead of Jesus to make arrangements before He arrived for a gathering. And that is exactly what happened on the night of Supper in the Upper Room. Two of the disciples at Christ’s bidding, went before Him to make the arrangement for them to gather in the upper Room. The meaning of our Gospel passage is so wonderful, and it is clear Christ has gone before us to prepare an abiding place for us in heaven. He has made the arrangements for us. Sadly there are many who seem to believe that life on this planet is all that there is, that there is no abiding place.

This story may be helpful if I may share with us today:

In a mother’s womb were twin babies.

The first baby asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The second baby replied, “Why, of course.

There has to be something after delivery.

Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense,” said the first.

“There is no life after delivery.

What would that life be?” “I don’t know, but there will be more light than in here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths.”

The doubting one laughed. “That is absurd! Walking is impossible.

And eat with our mouths? Ridiculous.

The umbilical cord supplies nutrition.

Life after delivery just can’t be. The umbilical cord is too short.”

The second baby held his ground. “I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here.”

The first baby replied, “No one has ever come back from there.

Delivery is the end of life, and in after-delivery it is nothing but darkness.” “Well, I don’t know,” said the twin, “but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us.”

“Mother?” The first baby guffawed.

“You believe in mother? Where is she now?” The second baby calmly and patiently tried to explain. “She is all around us.

It is in her that we live.

Without her there would be no life.”

“Well. I don’t see her, so she doesn’t exist.”

To which the other replied, “Sometimes when you’re in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her.

I believe there is even a greater life after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality when it comes….”

Beloved We can be confident that heaven is our final destination.

That Heaven is our true home.

The apostle John writes in the gospel that: all these truths have been written in Scripture so that Quote “You may know that you have eternal life” (John 20:31) Not a hope of eternal life, not a wish of eternal life, but to KNOW that you have eternal life!

My Beloved, Please hear me on this!

Since we are assured of heaven, we need not fear death, we need not fear dying. Physical death is for the believer a triumphant gateway to the glory and to the splendors of our heavenly home.

And We cannot help at times but to wonder what heaven is like.

The only place we can go to find out what heaven is like is God’s Word.

In the letter to the Believers gathered in Corinth we are told this: “No eye has seen, No ear has heard, No mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 Beloved, whatever we can imagine heaven to be like, it isn’t!

Praise God! It is much more.

It is vastly superior to anything our minds could ever imagine.

Nevertheless, there are some things about heaven that we do know.

God has revealed to us some very important truths about our heavenly home. Hear God’s Promise to those that die in Christ: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”.” Revelation 21:4 Heaven is our ultimate dwelling place our eternal home. Heaven is the place where there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow.

Beloved, we cannot even imagine the glories of Heaven.

Remember what the Scriptures tell us, “… now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” 1 Corinthians 13:12 This is to say, Here on earth we see things imperfectly.”We know in part’ and our knowledge is in part.

Yet for those who know Christ as their Savior and Lord, these truths have been written in Scripture that you may know that you have eternal life.

Brothers and sisters let’s yield to the saving grace of Jesus and you will know where you are going.

Do you know where you are going, when you leave this life. When you leave this side of eternity?

You can know you can know with certainty.

Heaven is a gift that is freely bestowed upon those who are trusting Jesus Christ to save them. If you are trusting, then Jesus is preparing a place for you. My Beloved, for those in Christ, a new and beautiful day will dawn, when we close our eyes in death. Those who know Christ as their Savior and Lord can have assurance. Assurance that He is preparing a place for you.

Remember, Your citizenship is in Heaven and You’re not Home yet.

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

Advent—The Four Last Things: Judgment

Sermon delivered on Advent 2C, Sunday, December 5, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Malachi 3.1-4; Luke 1.68-79; Philippians 1.3-11; St. Luke 3.1-6.

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

This morning we observe the second Sunday of Advent, a season of watchful waiting and anticipation. Our preaching theme continues on the Four Last Things—Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell—and this morning I want us to focus on Judgment. 

Advent begins in the dark, literally and metaphorically. We are rapidly approaching the shortest day of the year and the extended darkness wears us down. It is especially hard if you suffer SAD like I do. Advent is the season for Christians to take stock of the world in which we live, a world filled with the beauty of God’s creation but also blighted by the darkness of Evil, Sin, and Death. Advent asks the hard but real questions about God’s justice and care for his world and us. Its hope is rooted in the power of God, not human window dressing, and this requires sober thinking on our part about our past, present, and future. Advent is based on the promise of God contained in the overarching narrative of Scripture to put all things right in this desperately wrong world of his, a good and beautiful world marred by human sin and the evil our sin ushered in, Death being the ultimate evil. This is why observing Advent isn’t for the faint of heart—it forces us to confront the reality of Evil and our part in it—and often takes folks by surprise who come from traditions that don’t observe Advent because we don’t play the Christmas game the way our culture does. That’s why I know, e.g., that there are some of you out there this morning—your music director being one of them—already grumbling that we are not singing Christmas carols during Advent. That’s value-added for me, of course (I live to irritate), but off point. While the secular world rushes about putting up lights and decorations, hoping that all things shiny and bright will make it all better in the morning (it won’t), the Church spends its time during Advent reflecting on the promises and power of God to bring real justice to his creation and allows us to hear afresh the Good News of Christ. Don’t misunderstand. I love the lights and decorations and sounds of Christmas. Our house is a veritable Christmas wonderland. But much as I enjoy the light and beauty of Christmas decorations, they do not address the darkness of our world and therefore cannot provide any real comfort to those who need it most. No, if we want to find real comfort, a comfort based on the love and power of God rather than ourselves, we will find it here as the gathered people of God—even if we are gathered in the darkness of exile on the virtual island of Patmos (Zoom) as we await entry into our new home.

So what comes to mind when you think of the judgment of God? If you are like many, if not most, folks you equate God’s judgment with punishment and that’s understandable. In our OT lesson, e.g., the prophet Malachi wonders who can endure the Lord’s terrible judgment and both St. Paul and St. Matthew warn us indirectly that we had better repent lest we face that judgment. And of course a quick survey of the OT reminds us that indeed when fallen humans try to live in the holy presence of God on their own terms, it never turns out well for us; that was the whole reason for the tabernacle/temple system. God’s holy perfection simply cannot tolerate any form of corruption and/or evil, no matter how small it is. And who among us does not tremble a bit when we hear the writer of the letter to the Hebrews declare that, “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10.31)? The punitive dimension of God’s judgment leads many of us to believe—incorrectly—that God is a constant, angry ogre, eager to strike us down at the first opportunity because we all miss God’s desired mark as his image-bearers whom God created to be wise and good stewards on God’s behalf over God’s good creation. 

But this view of God’s judgment is skewed at best because it really impugns God’s character as a loving and just God and it fails to recognize the positive dimension of God’s judgment that Scripture celebrates throughout. What’s that you say? How can God’s judgment be positive? Hear the psalmist now:

Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! / Let the earth and all living things join in. Let the rivers clap their hands in glee! / Let the hills sing out their songs of joy before the Lord, / for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice, / and the nations with fairness (Ps 98.7-9; cf. Ps 96).

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If God’s judgment were strictly punitive and the result of a mean, vindictive Creator, why would the psalmist tell the nations and all creation to rejoice over its coming? I don’t know too many people who rejoice over being punished and the ones who do need our prayers and help more than anything! No, the psalmist tells all creation and us to rejoice because God’s judgment, while bringing punishment to the forces of Evil and their minions, also makes all things right! This is the essence of real justice and only God is capable of executing it. At its core, justice restores all things to their rightful state in the created order and brings balance/order out of chaos. And we get this at the deepest level of our being. Who among us in their right mind doesn’t long for all the wrongs in this world to be put to rights? Human systems of justice, even the best of them, cannot fully achieve these goals. We might try murderers, e.g., but even just sentences will not bring their victims back to life. Or what about those individuals who contract terrible diseases that rob them of their health and inflict terrible suffering on them and their families/friends? What about victims of war or natural disaster? What about the terrorist who ran down those innocents at the Christmas parade in WI or the child mass murderer in MI? What about the slaughter of the innocents that St. Matthew reports or the unjust death of John the Baptist? What about babies who are aborted before ever seeing the light of day or all the social and economic injustices that are being perpetrated against people around the world? What about children who grow up in fatherless, loveless families who eventually seek out gangs to fulfill their needs and become sociopaths? Or what about victims of car accidents or other acts of human failure/folly? Where is the justice for them? We hear and see and experience stories like these (and much more)—every one of us today carries an awful burden—and we know in our heart of hearts that something needs to be done about all these terrible injustices and needless, senseless suffering. Enter the judgment/justice of God. If God really is a loving God—and we believe him to be exactly that—he must also be a just God who loves his creation and creatures enough to one day put everything to rights and restore all things to their original goodness. And only God has the power to do this because only God can raise the dead and call things into existence (or back into existence) that did or do not exist. So at the last day, the great and terrible day of the Lord about which Malachi speaks, when God’s judgment will be finally and fully executed, God will restore the lives of those who had them unjustly and/or cruelly ended by whatever means. Relationships will be healed and restored. Loneliness and alienation will be a thing of the past. So will sickness and sorrow and anxiety and all that bedevils us, especially Death. This will happen because God is a just and loving God, not a cruel, angry tyrant. Advent with its fading light and darkness is the perfect time for us to reflect on all this, not only the darkness of this current age but the hope and promise of the time when Christ returns to put all things back to rights when he brings in full the promised new heavens and earth. Hear St. John announce this promise in his Revelation:

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. But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars [evildoers]—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Rev 21.1-8).

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Ponder this vision carefully, my beloved, and read it everyday during Advent along with its OT equivalent in Is 25.6-9 because it has the power to encourage, strengthen, and heal. Besides the breathtaking hope and beauty found in St. John’s vision, this passage reminds us that history is going somewhere really good and God is in control of things, whether it appears so to us or not. The New Jerusalem, NT code for God’s space or heaven, only arrives after Satan and all the dark powers and their human minions are judged and the resurrection of the dead occurs (Rev 19-20). Of course you and I cannot fully imagine the perfect beauty of such an existence because none of us have ever experienced it. But we all have gotten glimpses of the promised day contained in the passage above. This hope—the sure and certain expectation of things to come, not wishful thinking—has the power to sustain us as we walk through the darkness of this age and our lives. This is our Advent hope, my beloved, and this is why Advent is so important to us as Christians—it is Good News. And if this vision is not Good News to you, I don’t know what possibly could be because there is no greater promise than the promise to end all traces of Evil, Sin, and Death, all made possible only by the power, love, and justice of God our Father, thanks be to God! Amen?

Contrast this with the hopelessness of our current age where God is dead and/or incapable of bringing about real justice and history is spinning hopelessly out of control because the human race is incapable of fixing itself despite all the programs, indoctrination, and money spent to solve the perpetual evils that plague this world. No wonder there is great anxiety in any society that progressively loses its faith and hope in God. Being on the “right side of history” depends on who is in power, not on God! If there really is no God or God is not really willing or able to bring about real justice that will produce a world envisioned in St. John’s Revelation above, we are most of all to be pitied because we have no basis for real hope, only pipe-dreams and futile, incomplete thinking. 

But what about the punitive dimension of God’s judgment? Doesn’t St. Paul echo the OT in declaring that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rm 3.23), thereby making us liable to the just punishment of God when God deals with evildoers about which Malachi warns in our OT lesson? This is where our faith in Jesus Christ becomes an integral part of the biblical idea of God’s good and right judgment/justice because on the cross, God condemned our sin in the flesh so that he would not have to condemn us. God the Son willingly agreed to humble himself and take on our flesh so that God the Father would not ultimately have to condemn us, and that is why Christians no longer have to fear God’s condemnation because God has born it himself by becoming human to die for us (Rom 8.1-11). The cross of Jesus Christ proclaims that God’s justice is also tempered by his love and mercy for us because none of us deserve this gift of God’s offered freely to us. None of us deserve the second or third or millionth chance God offers us through Christ, but it is ours for the taking because God is a God of love and justice, two sides of the same coin. When we have faith to believe this Good News, we no longer have a reason to fear God or God’s judgment because we believe our sins have been dealt with once and for all on the cross; we are covered by the blood of the Lamb shed for us. We who are baptized are promised that where Christ is, there too shall we be; and because Christ is raised from the dead, we will share in the full future inheritance of God’s new creation. Death no longer has any power over us, even though our mortal bodies die, short of the Lord’s return in our lifetime. When we have real faith in Christ, it is reflected in our thinking, speaking, and doing. We focus on doing good works on behalf of our crucified and risen Savior who gave his life for us. We are firm advocates of justice, but always tempered with mercy because we have desired and been the recipients of God’s mercy. That means we are generous in spirit, willing to forgive, slow to anger, humble in spirit. None of us are very good at this because we are all thoroughly sin-sick and corrupted. But by the grace and power of God working in us through the Holy Spirit, we become new creations one tiny step at a time (and sometimes one or two giant leaps backward) before God restores us to holy equilibrium. That is the point of having faith in Christ: to become his holy saints who imitate him as faithfully as we can with the help and power of the Spirit. 

The cross of Jesus Christ also reminds us that the judgment of God is a serious and terrible thing, and since we are all sin-stained we must leave the ultimate judgment of people and things to God. This doesn’t mean we suspend our moral judgment where we call good things good and evil things evil. It simply means that we commend our enemies and evildoers to God, asking God to turn hearts and minds to Christ so that they too can escape God’s terrible but good justice. 

In closing, then, I urge us all not to be faint of heart or people who have no hope, but rather to focus this Advent on the return of Christ with its great hope and promise that God will restore all things to at least their original goodness and in judging the world will put all things to rights, i.e., to long for God’s judgment with its perfect justice. Let each of us do this with great humility, realizing that none will escape the judgment of Christ and all are worthy of eternal separation from him—the very definition of Hell—except by the mercy and grace of God. Let this holy fear lead us not to despair over our own sins because we know our sins have been dealt with once and for all, but rather let this holy fear strengthen our resolve to lead lives that are worthy of the Name we love and honor: Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. He is our merciful Savior and just Judge, and he calls us to follow him each day, imitating his love and goodness and mercy and justice in all we encounter. Let us therefore be people known for proclaiming and living out the hope and promise of God’s judgment with its promise of God’s perfect justice. Advent is a time of darkness, symbolic of the darkness of this sin-stained world. But fear not! The light has come into the world and by it we are promised a spectacular future and purposeful present. Therefore let us all keep our lamps burning brightly for Christ, lamps powered by the very love of God, as we await our just and merciful Savior’s return to finish his saving work and bring about the promised new heavens and earth. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever. 

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

Father Philip Sang: Advent Promise – Complete Destruction of Death

Sermon delivered on Advent Sunday, Year C, November 28, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Sang gets all whiny when we ask for a written manuscript. Nobody’s got time for a whiny priest so click here to listen to the audio podcast of his sermon.

Lectionary texts: Jeremiah 33.14-16; Psalm 25.1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3.9-13; St Luke 21.25-36.

Thanksgiving 2021: A Thanksgiving Litany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving 2021

Mom basting the turkey at Thanksgiving

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

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

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

What are you thankful for?