About Father Maney

The Venerable Dr. Kevin Maney retired as rector of St. Augustine's Anglican Church in May 2022.

Independence Day 2022: The Declaration of Independence

With the forces of lawlessness and mob rule that are attempting to wipe out this country’s history and identity in order to destroy it, it is critical that we know the principles contained in our nation’s founding documents on which our country is based. Take the time to read and reflect on the Declaration of Independence and give thanks to God for this great nation of ours, warts and all.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The Declaration of Independence

Read it all.

Another Prayer for Independence Day 2022

Lord God Almighty,
you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory,
to serve you in freedom and in peace:
Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice
and the strength of forbearance,
that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and ever. Amen.

A Prayer for Independence Day 2022

Lord God Almighty,
in whose Name the founders of this country
won liberty for themselves and for us,
and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn:
Grant that we and all the people of this land
may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Deacon Tucker Messamore: The Scandal of Grace

Sermon delivered on Trinity 3C, Sunday, July 3, 2022 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: 2 Kings 5.1-14; Psalm 30; Galatians 6.1-16; St. Luke 10.1-11, 16-20.

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

This morning, we’re going to focus on our Old Testament lesson from 2 Kings 5:1-14 about Naaman, a man who is afflicted with leprosy. 

This story is not exactly one of the “greatest hits” of the Old Testament. It’s not David and Goliath or Daniel in the Lion’s Den. I had Noah’s Ark wallpaper in my childhood bedroom, but I’m going to guess there aren’t many parents who opt for a Naaman the Leper themed nursery. As someone who grew up in the church, I didn’t hear many Sunday School lessons, sermons, or Bible studies about Naaman. In fact, I’m not sure that I even know this passage was in the Bible until I was an adult. But I think this text really ought to get more play than it does. You see, in Naaman’s story, we get glimpses of the gospel: We see both the reality of our sin-sickness and the remedy for this malady—God’s gracious promise to heal us through the cleansing work of Christ.

First, we’ll see that Naaman’s account shows the reality of our sin-sickness (v. 1) 

In the opening verse of this passage, there is a clear contrast between Naaman’s status and Naaman’s sickness. In v. 1, we’re told Naaman is “a great man.” He has a very impressive resume. He’s in a position of authority and is probably well known. Naaman was “commander of the army of… Aram,” another name for Syria. Now, this was not some rag-tag band of volunteer soldiers; Naaman led one of the most powerful military forces on the planet. At that time, along with Assyria, Syria was a major world power intent on building an empire, and Naaman was quite successful in this enterprise. We’re told that “by him, the Lord had given victory to Aram.” Because he of his military prowess, Naaman was well-regarded; he was held “in high favor” by his boss, the King of Syria.

But for all his prestige, power, and accomplishments, Naaman had a problem: he was sick. After this list of all Naaman’s credentials and achievements, the other shoe drops at the end of v. 1: “But he was a leper.” In the Bible, “leprosy” was an umbrella term for several skin diseases, some that were temporary and minor—like a rash or an infection—and some that were chronic (even life-long), painful, and debilitating. Based on the lengths that Naaman goes through to seek healing, it’s likely we’re not talking about a touch of eczema or a mild case of psoriasis. Whatever the exact nature of his condition was, it’s clear that it seriously impacted his day-to-day life.

Being afflicted by such a disease would have been a source of great suffering. Not only could leprosy be painful and irritating, but it also isolated the one who had it from anyone who didn’t have it. According to Mosaic Law, a leper was considered “unclean as long as he has the disease… He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:46). Because some leprous skin diseases were contagious, in Israel, lepers had to live apart from their loved ones until their condition cleared up (if it ever did). Lepers were required to remain distant from others and shout, ‘Unclean, unclean!” when approaching another person (Leviticus 13:45). To make matters worse, lepers—and those who came in contact with them—were considered ritually unclean; they were not allowed to enter the temple for worship (2 Chronicles 26:21). For these reasons, lepers were considered outcasts. They were avoided and despised.

While Naaman was not an Israelite and was not subject to the rules and regulations of Jewish Law, it’s likely that his condition dealt some sort of a blow to his relationships and his status in Syrian society. The bottom line is that leprosy in biblical times led to all sorts of suffering—physical, social, and spiritual. It caused painful skin lesions and separated those infected by it from their family and from the public worship of God.

For this reason, leprosy provides a fitting image for the sin-sickness that afflicts all of humanity. Scripture tells us that sin is like a genetic illness—we inherited it from our ancestors Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12). We all have within us a sin nature that inclines us toward evil rather than good. Left untreated, sin grows and spreads within us like a cancer, corrupting our actions, our thoughts, and our motives. Like leprosy, our sin impacts our relationships with others. It can cause heartache, suffering, and harm to those who are in our orbit. Our sin also separates us from a perfectly holy God. As Romans 3:23 tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Ultimately, our sin-sickness is terminal. Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin”—its prognosis, it’s outcome—“is death.,” and not just physical death, but eternal death—separation from God forever.

This is a grim diagnosis. But thanks be to God that in Jesus, the Great Physician, there is a remedy for our sin-sickness, as Naaman’s story illustrates for us (vv. 2-14). 

Naaman learns of the possibility of healing through an Israelite, a little girl who “worked in the service of Naaman’s wife” (v. 2). She tells her mistress about Elisha, a prophet in Israel who, by the power of the one true God, could cure Naaman of His leprosy (v. 3). But even though the little girl has given very clear advice about where to go to seek healing, notice that Naaman takes matters into his own hands, turning to the tools and methods he probably always employed to get what he wanted—his connections, his wealth, and his power. 

Instead of seeking a lowly prophet, Naaman goes straight to the person he thought was really in charge—the King of Israel; he brings a letter from the King of Syria demanding Naaman’s healing (vv. 4-6). But this plan backfires: the king of Israel recognizes that he is powerless to heal Naaman, and he fears that this is some sort of sneaky plot by Syria to reignite tensions with Israel and start a war (v. 7). Naaman’s riches also do no good. He makes a ridiculous display of his wealth, bringing about 750 lbs. of silver and 145 lbs. of gold (v. 5a), not realizing that neither God nor His prophet can be bribed or bought. Naaman’s attempts to wield his might likewise fail. When he finally goes looking for Elisha, he brings his horses and chariots (v. 9), sending the threatening message that he is important powerful. But Elisha is unmoved by this spectacle. Instead of speaking with Naaman face to face, he sends a message through a servant (v. 10).

Try as he might, Naaman could do nothing to earn or secure his healing. I love the way The Jesus Storybook Bible explains this: “[Naaman thought,] ‘I  should do something important so God will heal me’ . . . Of course, you and I both know, that’s not how God does things. All Naaman need was nothing. It was the one thing Naaman didn’t have.” Elisha tells him to simply “go and wash in the Jordan seven times . . . and you shall be clean” (v. 10). Of course, a mere bath was not enough to cure Naaman’s leprosy; if it was, he would have already tried it! Naaman was called to simply have faith—to believe that God’s promise of healing announced through the prophet was true. After some hesitation (vv. 11-13), this is exactly what takes place: “He went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God . . . and he was clean” (v. 14).

And this is precisely how we can be cured of our sin-sickness: by trusting in God’s promise to heal us through the cleansing work of Christ. When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, He told them, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (John 13:8). These words anticipated His sacrificial death on the cross; as St. John says, “The blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). 

Like Naaman, to receive this cure, all we must do is simply believe God’s promise that Christ has done everything needed to cleanse us of our sin and restore us into right relationship with Him and one another. This truth is beautifully visible in baptism. Cleansing is something that we passively receive; it’s not something we do, but something God does for us: As Titus 3:5 says, God saves “us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

This is the scandal of grace: cleansing from sin is not earned or deserved. This is probably not a revelation to you. If you’re an orthodox Christian, you readily affirm with St. Paul, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is foundational Christian doctrine. But when push comes to shove, do we really believe this? Naaman’s mindset easily creeps in as we consider our standing before God.

I’ve been reflecting on something a friend recently said during our home group: we have a natural human tendency to try to turn the gospel into law. On one level, I know that Christ has done everything necessary to heal my sin-sickness and reconcile me to God, and yet there are times in my life when I’ve thought, “If I am just more consistent with Scripture reading, if I just commit to pray more, then I’ll really be right with God.” Of course, these are important ways that we abide in Christ, means by which we can receive the grace Christ has already secured for us. But they are not ways we earn God’s favor. If we’re not careful, we make these precious gifts a burdensome duty.

Today, as we come to the Lord’s Table and partake of Christ’s body and blood, let us remember Christ’s words from Calvary: “It is finished” (John 19:30). This is the good news of the gospel. May we find comfort and rest in the completed work of Christ, knowing that our standing before God is secure in Him.

As I conclude, let’s very briefly return to an important but easily overlooked character in this story: the little girl who was a servant of Naaman’ wife. In v. 2, we learn that this girl was an Israelite and that “the Syrians on one of their raids had carried [her] off from the land of Israel.” At a very young age, she had been torn from her family, abducted to a foreign land, and made a slave, the property of another person. But in spite of the way she was treated by her oppressors, the girl had compassion on Naaman. She tells him the good news that a prophet in Israel could cure him. If it weren’t for her message, Naaman would not have been healed. He would not have come to know the one true God. 

As we come to the Lord’s Table, we are reminded that although our sin once separated us from God and alienated us from one another, we who were once far off—outcasts!—have been brought near to God and to one another by the cleansing blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:12-13). Our liturgy ends with a call for us to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” As we depart, wherever God takes us, may we, like the servant girl, bring the message of the gospel with us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, may we proclaim to others in both word and deed the love of God and the promise of healing from sin in Christ.

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

Today in Civil War History 2022: The Battle of Gettysburg Ends

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On the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee‘s last attempt at breaking the Union line ends in disastrous failure, bringing the most decisive battle of the American Civil War to an end.

Read it all and read about Pickett’s charge, the battle that effectively ended the Gettysburg campaign.

Independence Day 2022: Meet the American Who Wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) gave the United States — and the world — some of the most inspirational words ever written. 

She penned “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in November 1861, during a wartime tour of Washington, D.C., as Americans realized with gloom that the seven-month-old Civil War would be longer, darker and deadlier than anticipated. 

Howe’s masterpiece has been called America’s fight song. Its lyrics inspired the United States to spiritual resolve and sacrifice. 

The words tell the biblically heroic story of Union soldiers marching to their death in the name of Christ to vanquish slavery: 

As he died to make men holy
Let us die to make men free
His truth is marching on

From Fox News. Inspiring. Read it all.

What to Do When it Appears God Has Abandoned You

Sermon delivered on Trinity 2C, Sunday, June 26, 2022 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 texts below, click here.

Lectionary texts: 2 Kings 2.1-2, 6-14; Psalm 77; Galatians 5.1, 13-25; St. Luke 9.51-62.

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

This morning I want to focus on our psalm lesson. What can we learn from it? How can it help us in our faith journey? Before we answer these questions, I want to read the first part of the psalm again from a different translation as I think it brings added clarity to the psalmist’s complaint:

I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me!/ When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted./ I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help./ You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray!/ I think of the good old days, long since ended,/ when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now./ Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me?/ Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed?/ Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion?/ And I said, “This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me” (Psalm 77.1-10, NLT).

So have you ever cried out to Lord in despair? If you are old enough you surely have. Some of us cry out to the Lord in despair over the state of our nation and the strident voices and lawlessness that are becoming increasingly prevalent. Some of us cry out to the Lord in despair over the “joys” of aging or over a catastrophic illness or over the desperate situation in which we might find ourselves or our loved ones. Whatever the reason for our cries, like the psalmist we who have a relationship with God search for him in hopes that God will comfort us or heal us or relieve our despair. After all, God is all-powerful, right? He raises the dead and creates things out of nothing. Nothing is too hard for him! And indeed, oftentimes God answers our prayers and we then proceed to go about our business acting like we don’t need God at all. But sometimes like the psalmist experiences, God seems to be strangely or even terrifyingly absent. We search for healing or peace or comfort or a sense of God’s presence and find none. If God’s perceived absence lasts too long our doubts and fears can grow like the psalmist’s did. We can’t sleep. We are overwhelmed with longing, desperately wanting God to answer his prayers. And then we ask the awful questions. Has God abandoned us forever? Has God rejected us forever? And more personally, has God stopped loving me because I am so rotten? In the past God has answered my prayers for help and has comforted me. But now? Where is God? Why doesn’t he hear my desperate prayers? Why will God not show me any compassion? All these questions can lead the psalmist and us to this terrible conclusion (not to mention a crisis of faith): God has turned his hand against me, i.e., God finally sees me as I really am, a sinner undeserving of his love and grace, and refuses to help me. Anyone here ever gotten to this point in your relationship with God? I did 22 years ago and I almost took my life as a result. This is very serious stuff about which we are talking and if you are in that boat right now, I encourage you to reach out to your priest, your family, and/or your friends, especially if they are Christians, because God can and does use human agency to heal and comfort us.

St. Paul understood how this all works. In our epistle lesson he reminds us in no uncertain terms that our sin-sickness causes alienation between God and his image-bearers and that alienation can produce the kind of emotional and spiritually dark state the psalmist experienced and we experience, whatever the issue was and is. So what to do? The psalmist along with the rest of Scripture tell us. We are to remember. We are to remember God’s promises to his image-bearing creatures in general and his people Israel in particular, promises to act on our behalf, to free us from our slavery to the power of Sin and our own fallen nature with its corrupted desires. St. Paul catalogues a sample of the fruit of our sinful nature in our epistle lesson: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and all the other fruit of our alienation from God and each other that our slavery to Sin produces. But the psalmist remembers God’s power to act on our behalf, to free us from all kinds of slavery, and that’s why he remembers. He remembers especially God’s mighty act of deliverance for his people Israel when he brought them out of their slavery in Egypt and through the dark and terrible waters of the Red Sea to eventual freedom. God did this. God acted in Israel’s history because God loves his people and is gracious to them, even though they are unworthy of his great gifts. Likewise with us as God’s people in Christ, the reconstituted Israel.

Why else would the psalmist in his desperation seek to remember God’s mighty acts in the past? Why must we do likewise? Because they are proof positive that God does not abandon his people; rather, God acts on our behalf, undeserving as we are, because God loves us and is gracious toward us. Israel did not deserve its liberation. The people demonstrated that when they started grumbling about wanting to return to their slavery almost immediately after God liberated them! You can read that sad and compelling story in Exodus and Numbers. Nevertheless, God acted to free them, even though God knew beforehand what they were going to do. 

For Christians, of course, we are to remember God’s mighty acts of love and power demonstrated enigmatically on Calvary but definitively when God raised Christ from the dead. In Christ’s Death and Resurrection, God did a much greater thing than he did for Israel at the Exodus, jaw-dropping as the latter was. In Christ’s Death and Resurrection God freed us from our slavery to Sin’s power, the stuff St. Paul spoke about above, and defeated the darkest, most evil power of all—Death. But God the Father did not stop there. As Christ told his disciples at the Last Supper, after he had Ascended, he would not leave them (or us) as orphans and without hope or God’s power in this mortal life. No, we have the unseen Risen and Ascended Christ interceding for us at God’s right hand, NT language that proclaims Jesus is Lord over all, as well as the Holy Spirit who makes Christ available to us and intercedes on our behalf, even when we can only groan in desperation, not knowing what to pray for or how to ask for something. All of these gifts from God are real and they demonstrate God’s love for us and his willingness to act on our behalf. 

As a result we are no longer slaves to our fallen, sinful selves. To be sure our fallen nature rears its ugly head from time to time. After all, the very act of doubting God’s love for us is a product of our alienation between God and each other! But as St. Paul tells us in our epistle lesson, God does not leave us to our own devices. No, we are set free from our slavery to Sin and ruled by the Holy Spirit who empowers us and helps us to live and be as God created us to live and be, surely the mightiest of all God’s acts! The proof is in the pudding of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Whenever these fruit manifest themselves in our lives, we have proof that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in us, i.e., God is present and active in our lives, even when we consciously experience his absence. So like the psalmist, we as God’s people in Christ need to remember how God has acted on our behalf and how God continues to manifest his power in our lives, unlikely as that power appears to the unbelieving world. This is why the psalmist and the rest of Scripture tell us to remember. Why God seems to be strangely absent in our lives at times nobody knows. Why God doesn’t answer our prayers as we ask or seems to ignore our desperate situations nobody knows. What Scripture does tell us is that in all the ambiguities and mysteries and unanswered questions, God’s absence isn’t necessarily a sign God has abandoned us or is punishing us, although the latter is sometimes true, especially when we go off the rails for extended periods of time. But God never rejects a humble and contrite heart. Ever. God never rejects our sincere penance. Ever. God never ultimately rejects us unless we ultimately reject God. Christ’s Death on the cross is proof of that, thanks be to God! 

So what do we do when we are in desperate times, wondering if God has abandoned us? Well, many of us try to tough it out on our own. Instead of remembering that God is faithful to his people, we seek human solutions to alleviate our desperation. How’s that working out for you? I know it never has worked for me. No, as we have seen, we are called to remember, both collectively and individually, and then to rely on each other to remind ourselves that God never leaves us alone. In other words, we are to love each other and be there for each other when we sense God’s absence, just the way all healthy families help each other in good times and bad. Never underestimate the power of godly folk to help lighten your load as they walk with you through the dark valleys of life. The very act of remembering and relying on each other help us focus on God instead of ourselves. It reminds us to be patient and to trust God to act on our behalf in God’s good time and ways. That’s not easy for us god-wannabes but it is the only real option we have if we are not to totally lose heart and hope. When we remember, we are reminded that God is not some inconsistent ogre who delights in torturing us or who behaves erratically toward us as we do toward God and each other. God loved us enough to become human and die for us to free us from his just condemnation and an eternity apart from him, even while we were still sinners and his enemies. If God loves us that much, why would God abandon us now in our darkest hours? St. Paul comes to this exact conclusion in his letter to the Romans: 

If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since [God] did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? [Therefore] I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8.31-32, 38-39, NLT).

In this mortal life there are always going to be desperate times. When those desperate times occur in our lives Scripture tells us to double down in our efforts to focus on God and put our trust in him, no matter what the circumstances, no matter how dark the valley. God may not rescue us as we expect or hope, but we all have the assurance that God has indeed rescued us from the gravest danger of all: Death and eternal separation from him. God has broken the power of Sin and Death and promises us an eternity with him in his new world, a world without Evil or Sin or Death, a world that is full of perfect life and health forever. Don’t let your fears and weaknesses rob you of the spectacular hope contained in this promise, my beloved. Remember instead God’s willingness and ability to act on our behalf and for our benefit. 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: God’s Presence in Stillness and Silence

Happy Fathers’ Day! Sermon delivered on Trinity 1C, Sunday, June 19, 2022 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

There is no audio podcast of today’s sermon.

Lectionary texts: 1 Kings 19.1-15a; Psalms 42-43; Galatians 3.23-29; St. Luke 8.26-39.

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

Why is it that sometimes Jesus asks obvious questions? like to blind Bartimaeus “What do you want me to do for you?”—Mark 10. And sometimes he just acts?

“What have you to do with me, Jesus?” This question was asked after Jesus started to work. That’s kind of curious, don’t you think? The demons knew who Jesus was and what he could do. Indeed, Jesus had already spoken and told them to come out. But they played dumb, they recognize Jesus, but they don’t really want to obey him. They want to argue with him or negotiate with him.

Living with brokenness, living with hatred, living in fear doesn’t make any sense. Not to Jesus. He decided not to ask any questions at first; he was just trying to get rid of the problem, until when the negotiation started.

Jesus knows what we need, but is always willing to let us self-determine, even if our choices make things worse. Jesus was going to send the demons out of the mad man; but they chose or determined to ride the pigs. I know, I don’t want to go too far with this metaphor.

Demons can be a slippery subject for any of us. But it is somewhat ironic that the legion or rather the demons asks for a ride on the pigs instead of being sent to the abyss. Except that as soon as they get on the pigs, they end up in the abyss. The very thing they wanted to avoid becomes their fate—their self-determined fate. And Jesus lets them because they asked. Just like Jesus left because the villagers asked. After that miracle of driving demons out of the man, the villagers asked Jesus to leave their village. It was fear that caused them to send Jesus away. Luke says coming and finding the one they knew to be crazy now clothed and in his right mind scared them. It was a change that unsettled them. That’s kind of scary. So, they got together and stirred up their fears and all went to Jesus and asked him to leave. So, they could be safe, and feel great again. “What do you have to do with me, Jesus?” That’s our question too. “What changes will you effect in our lives? What growth will you seek? What effort will you require?”

“What have you to do with me” becomes a man who begged to be with him. The fear that was pushing away becomes a love that desires to move closer. He wanted to be with him, now clothed and in his right mind, all he could think to do was to stay with Jesus.

Reading from the Gospel, the man didn’t stay with Jesus in the way he probably imagined when he made his request. Instead, like us, he stayed with Jesus by telling his story to everyone he met. He chose, having been rescued from a life of despair, to live a life of hope and of joy, sharing the love of Jesus with all he encountered. He was now in his right mind, Luke says, clothed and in his right mind. And that mind was focused on the mind of Christ as Paul puts it in his letter to the Philippians, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,” (Phil 2:5). But what was that mind? It was a right mind, a mind of longing and of serving and of hoping and of following. It is a mind of discipleship. We are making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. But that making process is one of transformation as well. We are being transformed, even as we seek to transform the world. We say here at St. Augustines “we are changed by God to make a difference for God”. To be a follower of Christ, is to be other-centered, outward-focused; it is to see other people, even before seeing self.

To get there, we have to be quiet. We have to set ourselves aside and listen to a profound silence. From our OT reading Elijah had come to the end of himself—the end of his strength, the end of his wisdom. And it is only in the strength of God’s presence that he could hope to continue his life’s journey. He was ready to give up. You’ve been there, maybe not to the degree of wanting to die. Or maybe you have. Maybe someone you love or know has been there. It’s a place of despair, of surrender. It is not a place for condemnation, or shame, but of silence.

We see God leads prophet Elijah to the mountain and let him experience a rock-shattering wind, then a mountain-shaking earthquake, and then fire. At this moment Elijah felt, abandoned and alone, persecuted, hunted and hounded by his enemies of course Jezebel and her team and Elijah was at the end of his strength.

But the text says God was not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire. In the loudness of this terrifying world, God is not in the destructive forces that beset us when we’re at our worst. So, where was God? The text says God was in the silence.

Come to think of it, what is happening on that mountain is hard to imagine. It sounds like God sends Elijah to the mountain; yet at the same time, it sounds like God doesn’t want him there. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Maybe God is asking for the prophet to do an identity check, or to present his to-do list. But maybe we should read it as “Why are you still here?” Elijah’s rebuttal is that he’s doing his best. And sometimes it feels as if he is the only one doing any work here, the only one putting his life at risk, the only one who represents the true God of Israel. Does his complaint include God? “I alone am left,” says Elijah, which might be another way of saying, “Where have you been?”

So, what is it with the silence versus the madness of the destructive forces of nature? Could it be that God is announcing God’s presence in ways that often get overlooked? We want the big show; we want lightning and thunder to announce God’s presence. We want it to be so obvious that it would be hard to doubt. And there have been those moments, to be sure. But here in this moment, God announces that God works in quieter ways, obscure ways, ways that seem natural, like in the everyday decisions that we make all the time. God is at work in and through what happens around us, even when it doesn’t seem like it. God is present, even when it feels like absence. God is acting, even when it feels like stillness.

The man in the cemetery in the country of the Gerasenes was a force of nature who became a stillness. He moved from the earthquake of his madness to the silence of his right mind, a mind set on following Christ. Elijah was running for his life, so afraid of being killed that he wanted to die; then he encountered the silence and found the God he was longing for. He moved from despair to hope, fear to mission, and got back to work for the God he served. It is my prayer that in the madness, turmoil and craziness of this world that we may be still, and feel the presence of God in the silence and be hopeful and allow God to change us to make a difference for Him. If he did it for the man in the country of Gerasenes and for Elijah he can do it for us.

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

Deacon Tucker Messamore: The Love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Sermon delivered on Trinity Sunday C, June 12, 2022 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Proverbs 8.1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5.1-5; St. John 16.12-15.

“The Catholic Faith is this: We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father: another of the Son: and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is: such is the Son: and such is the Holy Ghost.”

These words come the Athanasian Creed which summarizes a proper Christian understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. We believe—and Scripture affirms—that there is one God who exists in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Not three gods, not one God who goes by three different names, but as the Thirty-Nine Articles puts it, “There is but one living and true God… And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

This is some mind-bending stuff, right? It’s difficult to explain and understand. How can God be both one and three? The math doesn’t seem to add up. It’s beyond our comprehension. It defies human logic.

Although many have sought to find an analogy to the Trinity in nature or human life—the phases of water, the parts of an egg, Neapolitan ice cream—all of them ultimately break down and fail to capture the mystery and complexity of the Triune God.

This begs the question: is the Trinity really that important? Is this just some obscure component of Christian doctrine that philosophers and theologians debate? Does it have any kind of bearing on our day to day lives? Does the Trinity actually matter

This morning, I hope we will see that the answer to that last question is a resounding yes. Just because the Trinity is beyond our comprehension does not mean it’s not worth our contemplation. There is a reason the Church Fathers fought to clearly articulate the doctrine of the Trinity and to defend it against those who denied it. The Trinity does matter. It is central to our understanding of who God is and what He has done for us, and it has practical significance for the Christian life. 

As we take a closer look at our lectionary texts, we’re going to focus on one specific implication of this doctrine: it’s through the lens of the Trinity that we get a clear picture of the love of God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

First, the Trinity helps us see God’s love in who God is.

Our two readings from the Old Testament point us back to Creation. Psalm 8 identifies God as Creator. The heavens, the moon, the stars, and all creation is God’s craftsmanship, the “work of [His] fingers” (v. 4a). Of course, we know this to be true from the very first verse in the Bible, Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

But notice that our reading from Proverbs 8 suggests that when God the Father created all things, He was not alone: “When [Yahweh] established the heavens, I was there . . . when he made first them skies above . . . when he assigned the sea its limit . . . I was beside Him, like a master worker (Proverbs 8:27-30). Not only does the speaker claim to be present at Creation, but also to have taken an active role in it. In fact, we’re told that this One existed with God “before the beginning of the earth” (Proverbs 8:23). The speaker here is God’s Wisdom portrayed as a person. But this is more than just imagery. It’s more than just a creative way of talking about God’s wisdom. Many theologians identify God’s Wisdom in Proverbs 8 with God the Son, the second person of the Trinity.

This is similar to what St. John says in the prologue of His gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1, 3).

St. John identifies Jesus with God’s spoken the Word, the power by which He brought all things into being— “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3).

Gen. 1:2 likewise shows the Holy Spirit’s involvement in creation: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” 

Creation, then, was the work of the Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is why in Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” While we don’t have a fully developed doctrine of the Trinity in the Old Testament, we see the fingerprints of the Triune God from the very beginning, even before the beginning.

What I want us to see here is that God has always been three-in-one. As the Athanasian Creed puts it, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are “coeternal.” This helps us to understand a rather enigmatic statement about God in the New Testament: that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). That sounds nice, but what does it really mean? Notice that St. John is not talking about God’s characteristics; He doesn’t say that God is loving or that God shows us love, but that God is love. He is telling us something about who God is in His essence. The doctrine of the Trinity reveals what this means: throughout all eternity, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit have existed in what theologian Timothy George calls “ a holy community of love” (George, Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?, 83). 

This has important implications for how we think about Creation and about God’s love for us. Have you ever thought about why God created human beings? Was it because He was lonely and needed a companion? Was it because He needed someone to worship him? No! God did not create us because He lacked something or needed something from us but to invite us to share in the love that He has always enjoyed within Himself. As George puts it, “God has chosen to love us on the basis of his own free will and not out of coercion or necessity. With full intentionality he has decided not to remain a divine cocoon within Himself.” (p. 84). Brothers and sisters, what greater love could there be than this?

The Trinity enables us to see God’s love in who God is. But it also helps us see God’s love in what God has done.

While our Old Testament lessons pointed us to creation as a work of the Trinity, our New Testament texts show us the Trinity at work in salvation. As we’ve seen, God created humankind that we might participate in the love He has always shared within Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. But when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, sin, death, and suffering entered into the world. Humanity’s relationship with God was marred. Conscious of their sin and of God’s holiness, Adam and Eve “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8b). The curse of sin wrecked God’s good creation and prevented mankind from enjoying full and perfect fellowship with God.

But God was not content to abandon the people He created to sin, death, and exile from His presence.  Out of love for us, the Father, Son, and Spirit act in perfect unity, but each with a distinct role, to rescue us from the effects of sin. As John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” Even in that most famous verse from the Bible, we bump up against the doctrine of the Trinity. Because of His love for us, God the Father purposes salvation and sends the Son.

Because God the Son loves us, He takes on human flesh and stands in our place on the cross, taking upon Himself the wrath of God, the punishment that we deserve for our sin. Through the work of God the Son, our New Testament lesson tells us that we can be reconciled to God the Father: We are “justified by faith and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Just as the Father sends the Son, so the Father and the Son send us the Holy Spirit who according to our readings “guides [us] ins all truth” (John 16:13) and “[pours] God’s love . . . into our hearts” (Romans 5:5). The Spirit also fill us with the “hope of sharing the glory of God” (Romans 5:1, 5). Through the Spirit, we experience God’s indwelling presence, but this is just a “down payment” (c.f. Eph. 1:14), a guarantee that we will one day have complete fellowship with God in the new heavens and the new earth, free from sin, suffering, and death.

Because of the redemptive work of the Father, Son, and Spirit, we have the hope that one day we will share perfectly in the love of the Triune God, just as God intended from the beginning.

As we close this morning, I want to share one final practical implication of the doctrine of the Trinity, an observation I came across in a Trinity Sunday reflection from Fr. Greg Gobel. As we have seen today, the Father, Son, and Spirit are one God—they are perfectly united—yet they are each distinct persons with their own roles. In the Trinity, we see the perfect cohesion and unity and personality.

We live in a world that seems more disunified today than ever. We are divided along racial, political, and socio-economic lines. But the good news of the gospel is that God is not only reconciling us to Himself, but to each other, that we might be one just as He is One. One day, people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will dwell together in perfect unity with God and with one another. As Fr. Greg puts it, “We will live forever as one with God [and each other], through Christ, and yet will continue to fully be our unique selves.”

We get a glimpse of this coming unity in part now through the Church, the body of Christ, made up of many members united together in Him. As we come to the Lord’s Table today, together we will affirm, “Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread.” May we remember that the day is coming when we will dwell with God and with one another in perfect unity and perfect love.

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