Creation Matters

Sermon delivered on the 2nd Sunday before Lent A, February 16, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Genesis 1.1-2.3; Psalm 136; Romans 8.18-25; St. Matthew 6.25-34.

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

We normally follow the Revised Common Lectionary for our weekly Scripture lessons but today I am using the Church of England’s lectionary because the lessons focus on creation. Why do I want us to focus on creation? Because most Christian denominations, at least those in the West, have done a pathetic job in teaching their people about why creation matters. So this morning, I will add to the carnage. No wait! That’s not right. I meant to say that I want us to start working on developing (or refining) our creational theology because creation and its redemption is one of, if not the, central themes of the Bible.

Our OT lesson, which is emphatically not a science lesson so please don’t try to make it what it isn’t, tells us the beautiful story of how God created this entire universe out of nothing. In each of the six creational periods, whatever they were, however long or short they took, we see God creating out of nothing and imposing order on the chaos of uncreation. After each creational period, the author tells us that God declared that particular activity to be good. With the imposition of God’s created order over the chaos of uncreation, we see God creating so that the living things he created had the ability to procreate and in each instance, God tells the living creatures, whether they be land- or sea-bearers, to be fruitful and multiply. Notice carefully the complementary binary nature of all creation: light and darkness, night and day, land and sea, heaven and earth, male and female, irrespective of species. And then finally God creates humans in God’s image, male and female (there’s that binary nature again) to—you guessed it: be fruitful and multiply so we could subdue, i.e., bring further order to the earth, and rule the earth on God’s behalf. That’s why God’s creativity reaches its climax when God created humans in his image. Humans are to play a central and essential role in God’s creation: We were created to rule in the manner of God. We can also read Genesis 1 as the story of God building his cosmic temple (the universe) and then placing his image-bearers in his temple to rule things wisely, i.e., when we serve in creation we serve in God’s temple. As we will see, St. Paul and our Lord Jesus himself tell us essentially the same thing in our epistle and gospel lessons respectively. To sum up our OT lesson, we can say that God created creation (including its creatures) good, i.e., creation matters to God, and God intends creation to be beautiful, life-giving, and sustaining, as well as orderly. But this can only happen to the extent humans, God’s image-bearing creatures, imitate God’s goodness, justice, and love to impose God’s good order on his creation.

So how should our creational theology (the study of God’s creation and intention for it) be shaped by all this? I don’t have the time to plumb the depths of this question (but you should) nor do I suggest there is a rigidly uniform theology that all Christians must follow. Having said that, there are some definite patterns and themes to which we must pay attention if we are going to live faithfully as God’s image-bearers. The first and most obvious component of Christian creational theology is that we must all be environmentalists and advocate for the wise care of God’s creation and its resources. After all, God has promised to redeem his creation. Why should we not care for it wisely on his behalf? This doesn’t mean we are tree huggers because we don’t believe God is in the trees. But we do believe God made the trees for God’s good creative purposes and our enjoyment, and therefore we must be wise in how we use (or don’t use them). Likewise with coal and gas and other forms of energy. Likewise with what and how much of something we consume because the commodities we consume have their origin in God’s creation and what we put or don’t put in our bodies is important because our bodies belong to God, not us (1 Cor 6.13). We are not to rape the land like we did in strip mining but nor are we not to use resources if doing so would impede our human flourishing. There are no easy answers to this issue of (non)usage and here again we must be wise and seek balance in our decisions, considering what the rest of Scripture, especially the gospel, has to say about being good stewards. This is why Christians have always advocated for education and the sciences as well as the arts and humanities. Most of the earliest modern scientists were Christians. They and their disciplines have helped us explain how and why things work, how to better our standard of living and the way we manage health and well-being; they’ve helped us explore the nature of beauty and truth in music, the arts, and literature, all for the purpose of human flourishing. Creation matters to God. It had better matter to us and these disciplines can help us be faithful stewards of God’s world. Of course, theology is important as well because good theology, studied and practiced together, helps us better understand God’s revelation to us and what God considers to be faithful image-bearing stewardship.

Our creational theology must also guide our thinking about love and sex. While our culture tells us today that sex is primarily about pleasure and our goal should be to seek as much pleasure as we can, this is not the reason God gave his living creatures sexual desires and instincts. God gave us sex to procreate so that we could rule his good creation wisely and in an orderly fashion. To do that, God gave us marriage and the family in which to enjoy sex and procreate. This theme is developed further in the second creation narrative found in Gen 2, especially Gen 2.18-25. Here we find the beautiful story and theology of how God created woman from the rib of man and the kind of equal and intimate yoking that stemmed from God’s creative activity, completing God’s image in humans. Again, notice the binary pairing involved here: man and woman coming together as husband and wife to enjoy sexual intimacy and union for the purposes of creating the family unit, the primary unit by which God intends humans to organize, so that we can rule God’s creation wisely and on his behalf. Whenever humans follow God’s created order for sexual activity and family, we find flourishing and thriving. When that order is not followed, we witness the chaos and disorder that arise from ungodly unions and human-constructed attempts to form families not in accordance with God’s creative will. The effects of divorce and family disruption, for example, not to mention fatherless homes, are well-documented despite the attempts of some to deny the chaos that inevitably results when humans attempt to follow their own disordered will instead of God’s. This is a conversation the church needs not only to be having but leading. If we are to be God’s image-bearers, we must not be ashamed to proclaim a faithful creational theology and its ramifications for all aspects of our life so that as many as possible can flourish, along with God’s world over which we rule. 

Our creational theology also informs us in matters of money and power and how we treat others. If we think we are responsible for providing for ourselves instead of God providing for us, we will tend to be greedy and self-serving. Money will have primary importance because that’s the medium we need to get stuff for ourselves and we’ll do what it takes to get it. Who cares who we run over or cheat or lie to or steal from? Who cares if we destroy the lives of others in pursuit of our needs? We’ve got our right’s, don’t we? But our rights look starkly different in a world where we own nothing and God owns it all. This alienated, self-centered thinking categorically rejects the generous heart and provision of God in the creation narratives to ensure that his creation and creatures will thrive. This doesn’t mean we sit around and wait for manna to fall from the sky (although my wife serves me manna regularly at our dinner table, but that’s another story). That’s not how it works. God gave us work to do as his image-bearers and from that work God provides for us, and generously. When we believe this, we must always be open to the needs of others and have a generous heart just as God the Father has a generous heart and track record for us. This gets at what Christ was talking about in our gospel lesson. Seek God and God’s creative purposes/order and you will thrive. Seek your own selfish desires and you will not. You will be anxious and sick.

This brings us to the darker side of creation because we all know that the world I have been talking about doesn’t exist today. To be sure there is great beauty and all kinds of evidence of God’s goodness and power in our world (if you’ve ever seen a breathtaking sunset or the vista of a mountain range or the beauty of blue ocean/lake water or a well-kept garden or the power of roaring waves or color photos of the cosmos, you know what I mean), but it is hardly good in the manner Genesis 1-2 describe. Why is that? Because of the Fall, a term used to describe what happened when humans rebelled against God in paradise by seeking to be gods instead of being content to be God’s creatures (Genesis 3.1-19). When that happened, our sin allowed the powers of Evil to enter into God’s world to corrupt and distort it, and it also brought God’s curse on the whole of creation. Because of the Fall, the original goodness of God’s creation was lost. Not totally but enough to make our lives miserable at times. Human sin along with God’s curse on his good creation is why, e.g., we have genetic defects and ugliness of all sorts and wicked diseases to name just a few. Our sin interrupted our perfect relationship with our Creator and introduced anxiety and alienation and loneliness and madness and chaos of all sorts into God’s world and our lives. To be sure, much of our suffering comes from the madness of our own folly and myopic selfishness. But much of what we suffer comes from external forces over which we have no control. We all have our stories. I just buried a young mother last week who died from cancer and was taken against her will from her family. She didn’t do anything to deserve that. Closer to home, we are holding our first healing service today and some of you will come for prayer and healing only to go away empty-handed. I wish it weren’t so, but that’s the reality. God sometimes refuses to answer our prayers for healing and deliverance, at least in the way for which we ask. There’s an injustice in the world that isn’t fully explainable by human sin and folly and it frightens us. This is what St. Paul is getting at in our epistle lesson when he talks about all creation groaning in travail while it awaits liberation from its bondage to decay—a reference to God’s curse on it—when God liberates his children. We too groan in travail from the emotional, mental, physical, social, spiritual, and personal bondage in which we find ourselves. It makes us want to cry out in desperation to God, asking why God allows this to happen and/or why God has abandoned us (cf. Psalm 130 for example). 

Here too our creational theology can help us because it allows us to see a bigger picture than our own individual salvation. We know from Genesis 1 what God’s gold standard for creation looks like, even if we have never experienced that standard personally. This longing for God’s gold standard—beauty, truth, love, health, life, vitality, happiness, flourishing to name just a few—makes us long for God to rescue us from his curse and the alienation, folly, darkness, sickness, sorrow, and death that our sin and God’s cursed world has brought about. It is precisely here that we must turn to the death and resurrection of Christ as St. Paul does in our epistle lesson because in Christ we are set free from our bondage to Sin and in our Lord’s resurrection we get a glimpse of a future even more spectacular than God’s creation before the Fall. When God raised Christ from the dead, God declared in this mighty act of power that he intends to rescue his good creation gone bad and us, restoring everything to its original goodness (and beyond), including our task as God’s image-bearers. That’s why God in Christ had to deal with our sin so that he could heal us and equip us to rule his new creation when Christ returns to raise our mortal bodies from the dead and bring in God’s new world, the new heavens and earth. God’s power and promise is what allows St. Paul to declare our current sufferings are not worth comparing to God’s promised new creation. At first blush that is a very irritating and off-putting statement. But St. Paul doesn’t mean that our sufferings are unimportant or trivial. He means rather that God will release us from them and give us a world forever devoid of suffering and sorrow, sickness and alienation, crying and death. This is our Christian hope, not yet realized. If we have a healthy and biblically-based creational theology, we get a glimpse of the astonishing possibilities that God has in store for his children, for those of us who are united to Christ in his death and resurrection in and through our baptism. And here is where we must be unabashedly bold in our proclamation and living out Christ’s death and resurrection. The world desperately needs to hear there’s a remedy for what ails it and we have that remedy: Jesus Christ, crucified and raised from the dead to initiate God’s promised new world, with the promise to return to complete the saving work he started.

So how do we respond to all this? I offer the following summary conclusions for your faithful consideration. I don’t know why God allows all the suffering and bad things that happen in this world. I don’t know why the woman I buried had to deal with the evil of cancer that she did. I don’t know why she had to suffer so mightily and why her family was saddled with that terrible burden of caring for their dying loved one. None of it had to go that way, yet it did. I don’t know why some of you don’t get the healing and relief you so desperately seek while others of you do. It breaks my heart to watch—I’m talking here about those of you who seek healing and relief and don’t get it—and frustrates me when my prayers for you ostensibly remain unanswered. 

But I do know this. You and I have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb shed for us on the cross and made fit to stand in God’s holy presence forever. We will be clothed one day with a new body patterned after the body of our Lord Jesus and set free to love and use our talents in spectacular new and old ways that honor God and others forever. I know that on the cross our sin has been dealt with once and for all. I know that Death will be abolished in God’s new world because Sin will be abolished and Death is the result of Sin. Both will be absent in the new heavens and earth. I know all of this because Jesus Christ is raised from the dead. Do you believe this? Do you?? If you don’t, I can promise you the darkness of this world and your life will overwhelm you sooner or later. But if you believe the promise, like St. Paul you will have the power to endure and even thrive in the midst of your travails. I believe this because I believe the promises of God and I believe the promises of God because I know Jesus Christ is raised from the dead. That’s all that is really important in this life, my beloved—Jesus Christ is raised from the dead. The God who created this vast universe surely has the power to rescue you. Will you not trust him by giving your life to him and living in ways that are consistent with God’s good created order?

The promise is mind-boggling. But the God we worship is mind-boggling. We worship the God who has the power to raise the dead and call into existence things that don’t exist (Romans 4.17). Jesus’ promise that he is the resurrection and the life is ours, not because we are deserving, but because of who God is, the God who created us to have life with him forever, and who is embodied in Jesus Christ raised from the dead. That’s part and parcel of having a solid creational theology; and if we do, we can rejoice today, even as we groan in travail. Because of our faith in Christ who loves us and who has claimed us from all eternity, we can embrace our hope of God’s promised new creation, the ultimate Gold Standard for which we long, and let it sustain us so that we can find joy even in the midst of our sorrows, a joy based on the love of God who promises to heal and redeem us fully when the new creation and the resurrection of our mortal bodies are finally revealed. That’s called real hope, my beloved. Embrace it. Let it heal and sustain you. 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 Santosh Madanu: Go Be The Light of Jesus Christ

Sermon delivered on the third Sunday before Lent A, Sunday, February 9, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 58.1-12; Psalm 112.1-10; 1 Corinthians 2.1-16; St. Matthew 5.13-20.

Jesus tells us who we are.  Jesus says you are the salt of the earth and the Light of the world. When Jesus was talking with the crowed that have followed Him from Galilee, Jerusalem, and Judea and beyond the Jordan.  They have come to see Jesus, to listen and learn, to be healed.  They have come in search of meaning, direction, and the purpose.  You and I stand among that crowed for the same purpose. Jesus is asking us to season and transform the human activity in such a way that reveals God in this world. Last week gospel showed us to be God’s receivers, this week Gospel shows us that we too be God-giver, God-sharers.  The salt and light ultimately look like the life of Jesus Christ in us.

To live as salt of the earth and light of the world is to know our deepest, truest, and most authentic self.  It is a life that we long for and the life of God desires us to have.  It is both who we are and how we are to be. To lose saltiness and the light is to lose Jesus Christ.   It is to deny God. So never to lose our identity in Christ Jesus.   The point Jesus making is that, as a child of God, and follower of Jesus Christ, you are critical to life on earth.  The history gives us glimpses of what the world would be like without God’s people.  At the time of Noah’s flood there were only eight followers of God on the planet.  The LORD SAW HOWGREAT man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.  The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain”. (Genesis 6:5, 6).  In our times we see, the communist countries don’t acknowledge God and many Middle East countries the Christians are slaughtered because of their faith in Jesus.  The world needs all of us.  Because many are genuine in search to know the truth and to find source of life in God. It does not make any sense if we hide ourselves from being witness of the Light of Jesus. Let your light shine where ever you are.  Let your spouse see that you belong to Christ.  Let your children see that you are His.  Let your friends on Facebook see that you are His.  And Let your coworkers see that you are His.  Let everyone see your true identity in Christ JESUS.  THIS IS WHAT GOD HAS MADE YOU and ME.

If we are the salt and the light then we ought to be tasted and seen by the world.  The world is in darkness, unfaithfulness, godless.  So we need to show who God is.  Regardless of where we are in life of our faith. You and I become light of Christ for the life of the world. Friends we together in community, St. Augustine family, and in our own individual lives bear out the light of Christ. Our lives should be model of God’s presence.  No one can kill our faith, no one can put off our true light of Christ.  This is the grace Jesus blessed us with.

Jesus makes clear what is the mission, the vocation, the task and responsibility of those who live according to the Beatitudes.

The blessings promised by Jesus are to spread throughout the whole world, and to the whole of humanity, through his disciples. This is entirely in accordance with the way God has acted throughout salvation history. Think of how God’s blessing came originally through the one man Noah, with his family; then through the one man Abraham; then through the children of Israel, and even just the tribe of Judah. Who were they among all the many nations of the earth? Yet, according to the dispositions of Divine Providence, God reaches out to the many through the few. So with Jesus. He gathers to himself just twelve disciples; then he speaks to a crowd of insignificant nobodies on a hillside in a remote Roman Province; and through them he speaks to us. Who are we? Nothing and nobody. No, worse than that, we are sinners. Yet also: by our baptism we are the children of God; we are Temples of the Holy Spirit; we have been made one with Jesus in his mystical Body. So today Jesus entrusts to us a tremendous power for good. We, who are the heirs of the Kingdom of heaven: we are to share actively in the mission of Jesus to bring salvation to the whole world.

You are the salt of the earth. Even today we can understand something of this metaphor. We know that a little bit of salt gives savor to a large amount of otherwise tasteless food. Salt preserves meat from corruption. Used appropriately, salt purifies and cleanses. But also: according to the Old Testament law, a little salt was to be added to sacrifices, whether of animals or of cereal (Lv 2:13; Ezk 43:24). So salt can be taken as a symbol of sanctification.

In addition: in the thought world of the New Testament, salt symbolizes wisdom. We then, who are so few, so apparently powerless, such frail and flawed instruments: we are to preserve our world from corruption; we are to save it from folly; we are to sanctify it; we are to make it a fit sacrifice to God.

And then immediately Jesus issues a dire warning. But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? Having had such blessings bestowed on us; such high ideals held out to us; such a noble task entrusted to us: what if we then turn aside, and become merely worldly again? What if we retain the name, but not the reality of Christian? What if we allow ourselves to lose our love for Jesus, and become separated from him through our own fault? What if our personal conduct becomes a living contradiction of the Gospel, and we land up acting actually as a counter witness? Of course while life lasts there is always the chance for repentance and conversion, thank God: but still the stakes are very high. If we persist in our infidelity, we must expect to be treated finally as we have richly deserved.

You are the light of the world. Of course this light is not our own, but the light of Jesus in us. I am the light of the world, Jesus says in St. John’s Gospel (Jn 8:12). So St. Paul cried out to the Galatians that it was no longer he who was living, but Christ who lived in him (Gal 2:20). So we ask that our own lives may become a radiance of the life of Jesus. We pray that Jesus may take possession of us so completely, and dwell in us so fully, that through us the divine light may shine out in our world.

It is difficult to imagine a world without light.   In Jesus’ usage, the light is not simply to allow others to see whatever they wish but it is for others to witness the acts of justice that Jesus’ followers perform

  Salt and light are indispensable household commodities. Salt and light in spiritual sense that Jesus is speaking has indispensable value.

Jesus is asking you, Mike, you Martin, You George, You Beth go, right now to spread the Good News of Salvation.  To bring back the world that I created, to strengthen the faith of all Christians. To be light of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ disciples will prevent moral decay in the world.

This means that there is a sanctifying influence that Christians have.

1.      1 Cor. 7:14, “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”

 How to be a Christian is something the world learn primarily from other human beings

You are salt and you are light.

 “The kingdom of God is lived here and now – that is what it says in that letter from Christ which we are and shall more and more be.”

Can you live with such a commitment that people come to understand the realm of God through you?

You are salt.

You are light.

So, why did Jesus refer to them as salt?  Well, here’s what He seems to mean:

  1. Disciples of Christ have a seasoning influence.
  2. Disciples of Christ help to preserve. The world is corrupt and continues to corrupt.

Their message is the remedy for further corruption.  Some people in the world won’t like the message, but others will accept it and be preserved.

  1. Disciples of Christ are a testament to God’s promises. – Our lives are to testify to God’s unfailing love, to His promises from the past, and to His promises for the future.
  2. John 1:4-5, 9 – In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
  3. John 3:19 – “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness instead of the light because their deeds were evil.”
  4. John 8:12 – When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

            “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven

Whenever we try to lessening God’s law or bend His rules it is serious business.  When we are lessening God’s law and bending of His rules leads our children, our friends, our co-workers to do the same it is serious business. Jesus is telling us the sins are really serious business.  Jesus came all the way from heaven to earth to tell us keep the Law and the prophets.

Jesus is interested in the heart. So let us not worried about what the world think of us but what God thinks of us.

Prayer: Holy God, set our hearts and minds on things above. Our hearts and our minds are so contaminated with lustful, greedy, angry, lazy, competitive, and prideful thoughts and ambitions. Forgive us for the impurity of our hearts through Jesus. May we become salt and light of the world that you desired to bring many to your Infinite Light and Truth.  Bless us to be citizens of your kingdom. May we remain faithful to you until you come in glory. In Jesus Name we pray.  Amen.

Funeral Sermon: The Resurrection of the Dead: The Promise of Evil Defeated

Lectionary texts: Revelation 21.1-7; Psalm 23; 1 Corinthians 15.1-26, 35-38, 42-44a, 53-58; John 11.17-27.

If you wish to listen to the audio podcast of the sermon, click here.

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

Good afternoon. I am Father Kevin Maney, rector of St. Augustine’s Anglican Church located in Westerville where my wife, Dondra, and I live. I am preaching today because Stephanie asked me to. I ministered to her for almost two years as she fought against the disease of cancer that ultimately claimed her life. I do not come to eulogize Stephanie today because even the most eloquent eulogies will not bring the dead back to life. Instead I come to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead because only Christ can and will restore the dead to new life despite all of our unanswered questions, our doubts and fears and anger. 

Death under any circumstance is hard, isn’t it? But it is incredibly hard when we are dealing with cancer, a disease that can only charitably be called pure evil. In this case it has struck down a mother in the prime of her life, robbed her of her human dignity as God’s image-bearer, and took her against her will from her husband and young son and daughters, her mother, and the rest of her family and friends. I watched her disease progress as I ministered to her and my heart is broken over it. Our fervent prayers for her healing went unanswered, at least in the way we intended, and this only added to our sorrow. Like the psalmist, we cried out, “Why, O Lord? Why do you stand so far away?” (Psalm 10.1). There is no good way we can spin this, nor should we try. Her death from cancer is just wrong. There is no justice to be found in it, no goodness. No family should lose a mother, wife, and daughter at such a young age. Cancer is truly a wicked disease and Stephanie’s death makes us angry and indignant, and rightly so.

Death ends permanently the relationships we cherish most about being human in this mortal life. We can no longer see our beloved, hear them, touch them, smell them or interact with them. Our Lord Jesus also knew this about the evil of Death because he snorted in anger at his friend Lazarus’ tomb just before raising him to life (John 11.38). Death is our ultimate enemy, the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Cor 15.26). It entered God’s good world as the result of human sin and has inflicted its evil on us ever since. Like Martha in today’s gospel lesson we want to throw our hands up in the air in desperation and ask why God allows this to happen.

But if you paid attention to our gospel lesson, you heard Jesus talk about a breathtaking hope—hope defined as the sure and certain expectation of things to come, not wishful thinking—as he gave Martha and us an ultimately more satisfactory answer to her “why” question about Evil and Death. Jesus did not answer her question directly. Instead, echoing Psalm 23, he acknowledged that while Evil and Death still exist in God’s good but fallen world, he had come to destroy their power over us, which he did, at least preliminarily, in his death and resurrection.

That is why Christian funerals are so important. They serve to remind us that for those who are in Christ, Evil and Death do not have the final say because of God’s great love for us expressed in the death and resurrection of Christ. As Jesus tells us in our gospel lesson, resurrection isn’t a concept, it’s a person, and those like Stephanie who are united with Christ in baptism are promised a share in his resurrection when he returns to raise the dead and usher in God’s new world. Jesus’ new bodily existence attests to the fact that we as humans—body, mind, and spirit, the total package—matter to God, and that new bodily existence, not death, is our final destiny for all eternity. This is what resurrection is about. This is what we celebrate today.

St. Paul talks about the nature of our promised resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15 and it is worth our time to see what he has to say. St. Paul tells us that unlike our mortal body that is subject to disease, decay, and death, the resurrection body with which we will be clothed will be like Jesus’ resurrected body. It will be a spiritual body, that is, it will be a body animated and powered by God’s Spirit instead of being animated and powered by flesh and blood. This means that our new body will no longer be subject to all the wicked illnesses and decay to which our mortal body is subjected. Whatever our new body looks like—and surely it will be more beautiful and wonderful than our minds can comprehend or imagine—it will be impervious to death and suited to live in God’s promised new world, the new heavens and earth. 

When Christ returns to raise the dead and usher in the new creation, the dimensions of heaven and earth will no longer be separate spheres for God and humans respectively, and which currently only intersect. Instead, as Revelation 21.1-7 promises, the new Jerusalem, NT code for God’s space or heaven, will come down to earth and the two will be fused together in a mighty act of new creation so that all forms of darkness and evil will be banished and we will get to live in God’s direct presence forever. There will be no more sorrow or sickness or suffering or pain or death or evil of any kind. We will be reunited with our loved ones who have died in Christ and get to live forever with our new body and limitless new opportunities to be the humans God created and always intended for us to be. To be sure, this promise of new heavens and earth has not yet been fully realized and so we must wait in hope and faith for our Lord Jesus to return to usher it in. But even if we must wait, the promise of new creation is the only solution that will ultimately satisfy our hunger for justice and life because only in God’s new creation will all the injustices and hurts be made right and evil vanquished. In this case, Stephanie’s life and cancer-ravaged body will be fully restored (what better justice for the injustice of cancer and Death?) and severed relationships caused by death will made whole and complete again, a life of perfect health and happiness that will last forever, thanks be to God!

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting that we should not grieve. That would be cruel nonsense. You don’t love a person for an entire lifetime and then not grieve her loss when she dies. But as St. Paul reminded the Thessalonians, we are to grieve as people who have real hope and not as those who have none at all. It is this resurrection hope, the promise of new bodily life in God’s new heavens and earth, that we claim today. Our resurrection hope is the only real basis we have for celebrating Stephanie’s life, because without union with Jesus, none of us have life in this world or the next.

I want to close by telling you a story that powerfully sums up our Christian hope. 

In 1989 Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma, wife of Emperor Charles of Austria died. She was the last Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary, and Queen of Bohemia—one of the last members of the storied House of Habsburg. Her funeral was held in Vienna, from which he had been exiled most of her eventful life. After the service in St. Stephen’s Cathedral, her body was taken to the Imperial Crypt, where some 145 Habsburg royals are buried. As the coffin was taken to the Crypt, an ancient ceremony took place. A herald knocked at the closed door, and a voice responded, “Who seeks entrance?” The herald answered, “Zita, Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary.” From within came the response, “I do not know this person.” The herald tried again, saying, “This is Zita, Princess of Bourbon-Parma, Empress of Bohemia.” The same reply was heard: “I do not know this person.” The third time, the herald and pallbearers said, “Our sister Zita, a sinful mortal.” The doors swung open.  

And so we return to Jesus’ question to Martha and us in our gospel lesson. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this? If you do, then act like the resurrection people you are! I don’t know why God allows all the suffering and bad things that happen in this world. I don’t know why Stephanie had to deal with the evil of cancer that she did. I don’t know why she had to suffer so mightily. I don’t know why her family had to be subjected to the heavy burden of caring for their failing wife, mother, and daughter. None of it had to go that way, yet it did. 

But I do know this. Stephanie has been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb shed for her on the cross and made fit to stand in God’s holy presence forever. She will be clothed one day with a new body patterned after the body of her Lord Jesus and set free to love and use her talents in spectacular new and old ways that honor God and others forever. I know that on the cross, her sin, along with ours, has been dealt with once and for all. I know that Death will be abolished in God’s new world because Sin will be abolished and Death is the result of Sin. Both will be absent in the new heavens and earth. I know all of this because Jesus Christ is raised from the dead. 

The promise is mind-boggling. But the God we worship is mind-boggling. After all, we worship the God who has the power to raise the dead and call into existence things that don’t exist (Romans 4.17). Jesus’ promise that he is the resurrection and the life is ours, not because we are deserving, but because of who God is, the God who created us to have life with him forever, and who is embodied in Jesus Christ raised from the dead. That is why we can rejoice today, even in the midst of our grief and sorrow. And if your pain and sorrow are too great so that you cannot hear the promise of resurrection today, hold onto the promise with all your might until the day comes when you can hear and embrace it. Because of her faith in Christ who loves her and who has claimed her from all eternity, the doors of heaven have swung wide open for Stephanie and she is enjoying her rest with her Lord Jesus until the new creation and the resurrection of our mortal bodies come in full. And that, of course, is Good News, not only for Stephanie, but also for the rest of us, now and for all eternity. 

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

Father Carlo Carretto Muses on His Relationship with the Church

This will resonate with anyone who has had remotely any experience with the Church. It offers compelling reasons why we should not abandon Church, despite the wounds we receive from her. Please read it for what it is, not what you want it to be.

How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you! 

How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you! 

I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence. 

You have given me so much scandal  and yet you have made me understand sanctity.

I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms. 

No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, although not completely. 

And where should I go? 

From The God Who Comes by Fr. Carlo Carretto

Father Santosh Madanu: The Blessing of Candles

Sermon delivered on Candlemas, Sunday, February 2, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Malachi 3.1-5; Psalm 24; Hebrews 2.14-18; Luke 2.22-40.

This week we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. In ancient Israel the Temple was the most important place in the world. It was the dwelling place of the Lord; it was where divinity and humanity embraced. But the nation of Israel had gone away from right worship of God. The Christ child is the divine and human in one and thus brings humanity back on line with God.

The words of the prophet Malachi are fulfilled in the poor parents presenting their firstborn son along with their humble sacrifice of two turtledoves. (Now I am sending my messenger— he will prepare the way before me; and the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; The messenger of the covenant whom you desire—see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3:1) The mother of God – the Theotokos, in no need of ritual purification – and her husband did not set themselves above the Law.

Simeon identifies the child as the awaited messiah, a light for revelation, the glory of Israel 

The devotion to the presentation of the Lord in the Temple or the blessing of Candles, Candle light procession practiced during Constantinople in the sixth Century.  This feast invites us to recognize Jesus as the light that has come into the darkness to destroy sin and death.

 In the New Testament, the festive celebration of the presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, as described by the evangelist Luke, had it’s beginning in Jerusalem in the 4th Century. The Christians followed the same prescription as attested to by St. Epiphanius in his letter to the monk John of Jerusalem in the 4the Ce. In the beginning the feast did not have specific name,  it was called the 40th day after the Nativity, later it was called the encounter of Our Lord, which refer to the encounter of St. Simeon with Jesus in the Temple.  In the west, the feast is called The Purification, which prescribed by the Law (Luke2:12).  Later it was called Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. Now it is called The Candlemas, or Blessing of the Candles.

When Simeon took the child Jesus into his arms, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit and chanted the hymn, “Now you can let your servant go in peace, O Master… (Luke 2, 29-32).  St. Simeon referred Jesus as the “Light to the Gentiles,” it prompted the first Christians to carry a lighted candle or lamp in the procession that day, symbolizing the mystical presence of the “True Light”.  The solemn procession itself symbolizes the journey of Joseph and Mary to Jerusalem in fulfilment of the Law.

The blessing of candles and procession is of great importance.  Because of the words of Simeon and the testimony of Anna the prophetess. This is a kind of epiphany celebration. We gladly participate in the procession commemorating the Lord’s entry into the temple in Jerusalem and His encounter with God, whose house He had come to for the first time, and then with Simeon and Anna.  Jesus Christ is the light to enlighten the Gentiles.  Who are the Gentiles?  We are all the Gentiles.  We came to know Jesus the Light of the world through Him.  This is the humble service Blessed Mother Mary did to honor God in obedience to the Law.

It is good to know the custom of blessing candles on the Feast of the Presentation was introduced to fulfill the needs of the people.  During the 5th Ce as recorded in the Chronicles of St. Theophanes, Emperor Justinian I, issued the order that on the feast of the presentation, a Candle – light procession be held throughout the city to implore Divine Protection against the pestilence and numerous earthquakes that plagued the city. And in answer to this holy gesture, God caused the pestilence and earthquakes to subside.  This gave rise to having processions on other occasions when the common welfare of the people was in danger.  In homes, the blessed candles are lighted in time of serious sickness or the threat of a storm to implore Divine Protection, as the family gathered in prayer.

St. John Chrysostom says the candle blessed on the feast of the presentation is also used when the Last Rite of the Church are administered to a member of the family.  It should also be placed into the hand of the dying as the priest recites the prayer for the Departure of the Soul, sending him to God as “the Champion of Faith”.

The liturgy provides for the blessing of women both before and after birth.

It is a highly desirable thing for mothers and married couples to ask for these blessings so that pregnancy can be brought to term without difficulty (blessing before birth), and to give thanks to God for the gift of a child (blessing after birth).

In the Old Testament Lev 24:14, God Himself ordered the Israelites to burn lamps as a sign of His presence among the People.

The psalmist speaks: your word, O Lord, is a lamp to my feet and light to my path

St. John the evangelist presents Our Lord Jesus Christ to us in his Gospel as the “The Light of Life”. (John 8:12) a life of grace.

St. Mathew refers to Light as a symbol of Christ Teaching:  “the people that lived in darkness (of ignorance) have seen a great light.  Mathew 4:16

John 8:12 Our Lord Himself says “I am the Light of the World”

The teachings of Jesus Christ should enlighten us and guide us on our way to Salvation.

Dear friends this light of Christ can help us to walk through the darkness to the unknown world- Heaven.

Gospel tell us the story of Simeon and Anna went to the Temple every day, because both of them believed that one day, they would see the Messiah there.   So this is something that they have done for long time. And of course, as we just heard, they are both rewarded for their Faith and their perseverance. By the fact they get to see Jesus on the day that he was presented to God in the Temple, because they had been waiting for Messiah in prayer and fasting day and night.  God fulfills His promises to Simeon and Anna.

How can we know our salvation?

How can we know the promises of God being fulfilled?

How does God reward His faithful?

The Lord may bless us like Simeon and Anna to see the salvation, when we consecrate our life to His Sacred Heart.   We need to acknowledge God in everything we do and live. This is why we have to find some time for God every day in our lives.  If Simeon and Anna decided not to go to the Temple that day, they would have missed out!

Are we missing Jesus and His Light? Are we missing out the joy, peace and spiritual life?  Because we miss church, we miss prayer life and fellowship. Let God fulfill His promises to us every day!

Dear brothers and sisters forty days have passed since we celebrated the joyful feast of the Nativity of the Lord. 

God in His Boundless love and Infinite mercy wanted to abide with us always.  That is why he created in His own image and likeness.  And He spent His presence with Adam and Eve every day.  

Though they disobeyed His Commandment and lost His presence.  Once again God in Jesus Christ came to walk, talk and have His abiding presence.  That is what todays feast presentation of the Lord in the Temple. God in Jesus Christ come to meet His children.

Jesus is coming to meet His believing people through His word and through the Holy Mass.  We need to be prepared to meet Him and have an encounter with Christ. Surely we shall find Him and ask His blessings like St. Simeon. 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you have established the church, made all of us your members, bless us that we may never ceases to proclaim the mystery that God has become man.  And God who created all things has emptied himself to become like one of a his creatures to be Light to Nations. IN Jesus Name we pray. Amen.

Candlemas 2020: And Before There Ever Was Groundhog Day, There Was…

iu

…Candlemas, a Christian holiday that remembers when Mary presented the Christ child at the Temple in Jerusalem and performed her purification (see below). Candlemas is also called the Festival Day of Candles, in which the parish priest would bless candles for use in the local church for the coming year and would occasionally send some of them home with his parishioners for them to use. It is one of the earliest known feasts to be celebrated by the Church.

Candlemas falls 40 days from the birth of Jesus because that is the day Mary would have completed her purification process as prescribed by the Law, which means that Candlemas always falls on February 2. It is the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox and before there ever was a Groundhog Day (also observed on February 2), tradition held that when Candlemas fell on a sunny day, there was more winter to come. But when it fell on a cloudy, wet, or stormy day, it meant that the worst of winter was over. Check out the two Candlemas poems below and see if you recognize anything familiar in them:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.
(Anonymous English poem)

If Candlemas day be dry and fair,
The half o’ winter to come and mair,
If Candlemas day be wet and foul,
The half of winter’s gone at Yule.
(Anonymous Scottish poem)

For you Christmas junkies out there, tradition also holds that any Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night (January 5) should be left up until Candlemas and then taken down. Candlemas also officially marks the end of the Christmas and Epiphany seasons, seasons in which the Church celebrates Christ as being the light to the world.

Now you know.

Christ’s Light for Our Darkness: The Challenge of Living in the Already-Not Yet

Sermon delivered on Epiphany 3A, Sunday, January 26, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 9.1-4; Psalm 27.1, 4-12; 1 Corinthians 1.10-18; St. Matthew 4.12-23.

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

We all know what it is like to live in the darkness. But do we know what it is like to live in Christ’s light in the midst of the world’s darkness? This is what I want us to look at this morning. 

Every one of us is afflicted by some form of darkness, whether imposed from the outside or from within. So what forms of darkness do you struggle with? For some it is the darkness of alcoholism or drug addiction. For others it is the darkness of pornography or gambling addiction. For still others it is the darkness of loneliness or alienation or the loss of important relationships and people once held so near and dear. Others live in the darkness of fear: we fear losing what we have, be it family and loved ones, or a culture and country we once loved but see crumbling around us. We fear bankruptcy, sickness, and death. The list is almost endless. For the people of the ancient northern kingdom of Israel it was the darkness of impending foreign invasion with its resulting destruction and displacement from the promised land, a sure sign that God had abandoned them. Many of us who live today have a similar fear of being rejected by God. We look at the good we’ve done but we also see the evil we’ve committed. Every one of us knows we have the capacity to betray ourselves—our highest values and all the good that we hold near and dear—along with others in pursuit of the various idols our disordered hearts seek, even as we know we are capable of showing true sacrificial and noble love for the sake of others. To use the language of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares, if we have the courage and humility to be honest with ourselves, each of us would be forced to admit that we are both wheat and tare in the field of God’s world. 

At its root, the darkness that afflicts us, whether internally or externally, finds its origins in our alienation from God that resulted when our first ancestors rebelled against God in paradise. It makes us afraid and diminishes us as human beings, God’s image-bearing creatures who were designed to reflect God’s goodness and justice and love out into his creation to nurture and sustain it. It makes us sick and causes us to die. It makes us cry out to the Lord in desperation and pain, pleading with God to do something about it, and it makes us wonder if we really matter at all to God. End our alienation from God and the various forms of evil Scripture calls “darkness” must go away. But how to do that since none of us has the power to fully extricate ourselves from the darkness? Reality notwithstanding, we keep on trying and the problem is exacerbated when we try to self-medicate and/or find healing through our pursuit of various idols, just as God’s people Israel did all those centuries ago. We try to drown our sorrows to forget them. Or we pursue the idols of power, identity politics, security, wealth, and prestige to name just a few, thinking if we just make enough money or have the right connections and/or influence we can fix our various problems. We can’t. It’s not in our spiritual DNA as fallen human beings. We still remain alienated from God and each other.

There is only one hope for ending the darkness that afflicts us and it is announced by the prophet Isaiah and realized fully in Jesus Christ, God’s healing light to the world. Despite our ongoing rebellion against God, despite our relentless pursuit of self-help and its accompanying idols, God in his great mercy, love, and wisdom has acted on our behalf to end the root cause of our alienation from him so that we can one day be fully healed and freed from the power of darkness. And how did God do this? God sent his own Son to die for our sins, for the ongoing darkness that our rebellion helps create and sustain. In the cross of Christ we see the wisdom and power of God to save for those who believe in this kind of unheard of power. On the cross, God took the collective darkness of the world, your darkness and mine along with everyone else’s over time and culture, and condemned it in Christ’s body nailed to the tree. Doing so allowed God to condemn the darkness without condemning us. St. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Colossians:

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world.

Colossians 2.13-15, 20a, NLT

Did you catch the breathtaking promise in St. Paul’s bold proclamation? God himself has acted unilaterally on our behalf to end our alienation from him. On the cross God has broken the dark powers’ grip over us. We are no longer enslaved to the darkness because of the blood of the Lamb shed for us. Death is no longer our destiny. In Christ we are set free to be truly human beings.

God used an instrument of shame and human degradation to heal our relationship with him and restore us to himself. God broke the power of darkness in this manner because to fight darkness with darkness is to already be defeated by the darkness and God could not let that happen. Shock and awe along with a final fearsome judgment will come, but not before God gives us time and a real chance to be rescued from his final just condemnation of the darkness that has plagued and corrupted God’s beloved creation and creatures. God did not wait for our approval or for us to ask him to help us in this way. In fact, as St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, God acted on our behalf to break the darkness while we were still his enemies, hostile and alienated from God (Romans 5.1-11). There is no greater love than this and it shows the depth of God’s love and mercy for us, along with God’s desire for real justice to be executed on all the darkness perpetrated against God and his people. This is why St. Paul was so adamant that God’s people in Christ make the cross our central focus and purpose of living. Without it we are dead men and women walking, alienated from God and utterly without hope. With and through the cross, we are forgiven and reconciled to God the Father with the expectation (hope) of being fully forgiven right now and the complete restoration that accompanies eternal life in the future. This is the power and wisdom of God made known in the cross.

But here’s the thing. While we have been rescued from eternal death and destruction, and while God has broken the enslaving power of darkness on the cross, the powers have not been totally vanquished. They are still quite active. Neither are we fully healed, even though we have been fully reconciled to God the Father through the cross of Christ. Remnants of sin still remain in us. The promise of new heavens and a new earth are yet to be fully realized. We call this living in “the already-not yet.” Christ has won the victory for us and we are no longer God’s enemies and children of hell (the already). But the victory is not yet fully consummated and won’t be fully realized until our Lord’s return (the not yet). This can create some interesting ambiguities in us and our lives, and apparently those ambiguities have been with us from the get-go as our epistle lesson attests. 

In the church at Corinth various destructive factions had formed around its leaders that threatened to tear apart the church. Christians there were reverting back to their various idols, in this context striving for the idol of human power to impose their will on their fellow Christians. This idol is often driven by human pride and St. Paul would have none of it. Don’t you know that you are emptying the cross of its power by seeking other idols, he roared? Christ died for your sins and has stripped away your slavery to the darkness. You are rescued and restored to God. It’s a free gift to you won by God himself and given to you in your baptism when the free gift was fully bestowed upon you. When you look at the cross you must see that humility and love must rule your lives, not self-gain or the delusion of self-help. The cross demands that you seek to put to death your darkness (the only darkness you have control over) in the power of the Spirit, not to win the light of your salvation, because it has already been won for you and you are freed from your slavery to sin. You must instead make the cross the focus and center of your life because it is the only way God can break the power of darkness over you and use you to be his light bearers. One day you will be fully healed and you will not be able to sin any longer because your bodies will be powered by the Spirit, not by your fallen nature. That’s in the future though. Right now, you have to fight the fight against the darkness and sometimes you will lose. But the war’s already been won for you when Christ died for you. Don’t throw away the victory God won for you. Don’t reject God’s great love and mercy for you.

St. Paul would tell us the same thing today and so did Christ in our gospel lesson when he announced that God’s kingdom was at hand, i.e., God’s promised light had finally appeared, but surprisingly in the form of Jesus. The proper response is to repent. Since our thinking about repentance is quite muddled, let us be clear about what repentance is and isn’t. Jesus wasn’t telling us to feel terminally rotten about ourselves. Why would he want us to do that, especially since the kingdom of God with its healing and exorcisms had come near? Repentance doesn’t mean a call to self-condemnation, my beloved, because self-condemnation is categorically different from feeling remorse over our sins and transgressions. Repentance is about changing our way of living and our orientation of life. Instead of focusing inward and making it about us, Christ calls us to focus again on the love and goodness of God made known in him. In other words, repentance is about doing, not feeling. Christ calls us to focus on his life-saving death and resurrection, along with the many signs of power he did in his earthly ministry. Doing so reminds us to have the good sense and humility to acknowledge our utter helplessness to free ourselves from our slavery to the darkness and acknowledge that God through Christ alone has the power to free, to heal, to restore, and to save. Repentance also allows us to live with the ambiguities of the already-not yet, believing the promises of God made known in the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

And to further help us live in the already-not yet, we take another cue from our Lord when he called his first disciples. In doing so, Jesus reminds us that discipleship is always to be lived out together as his newly-formed family so that we can love and support each other. In doing so, we are helped to remain confident that the power of darkness is broken over us even as it remains abundantly active in the world. And so we continue to act faithfully, even in the face of multiple ambiguities, knowing that we are rescued and healed and loved and restored by a love that simply is beyond our full comprehension. We believe this because we believe in the power and wisdom of God. 

So what does that look like? When we keep the cross as our central focus, we are reminded that each of us has good and evil in us and that Christ died for the ungodly, for all of us. When we take this to heart with the Spirit’s help, it must change how we interact with others. No longer can we hate anyone since Christ died for those we despise and who despise us, and so we must treat them with circumspection and charity. What if Christians in this nation took that mindset into the political arena this year? Instead of posting hateful, shameful things about those with whom we disagree, we greet them with charity and a willingness to openly debate issues rather than lobbing ad hominem attacks on them. Think what would happen if instead of blaming and shaming our enemies, we seek to find real justice and solutions for them, remembering that Christ died for them as he did for us. If the Church would behave this way in the secular world, we are promised that the light of Christ will shine through us to bring God’s healing to bear. What an Epiphany proclamation that would be! As we near the end of this season of Epiphany and prepare for Lent, let us as Christ’s holy people resolve to focus on the power and wisdom of God made known in the cross of Christ by taking up our own cross, denying ourselves, and following him. Only then can we beacons of Christ’s light and not bearers of darkness. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever. 

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

Lesslie Newbigin on the Goal of Christian Living

Well said, bishop. Well said.

The point is that [a transformed society] is not our goal, great as that is…. Our goal is the holy city, the New Jerusalem, a perfect fellowship in which God reigns in every heart, and His children rejoice together in His love and joy…. And though we know that we must grow old and die, that our labors, even if they succeed for a time, will in the end be buried in the dust of time, and that along with the painfully won achievements of goodness, there are mounting seemingly irresistible forces of evil, yet we are not dismayed…. We know that these things must be. But we know that as surely as Christ was raised from the dead, so surely shall there be a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness. And having this knowledge we ought as Christians to be the strength of every good movement of political and social effort, because we have no need either of blind optimism or of despair.

A Prayer for the Truth of God

O God, we thank you for all those in whose words and in whose writings your truth has come to us.
For the historians, the psalmists and the prophets, who wrote the Old Testament;
For those who wrote the Gospels and the Letters of the New Testament;
For all who in every generation have taught and explained and expounded and preached the word of Scripture: We thank you, O God.
Grant, O God, that no false teaching may ever have any power to deceive us or to seduce us from the truth.
Grant, O God, that we may never listen to any teaching which would encourage us to think sin less serious, vice more attractive, or virtue less important;
Grant, O God, that we may never listen to any teaching which would dethrone Jesus Christ from the topmost place;
Grant, O God, that we may never listen to any teaching which for its own purposes perverts the truth.
O God, our Father, establish us immovably in the truth.
Give us minds which can see at once the difference between the true and the false;
Make us able to test everything, and to hold fast to that which is good;
Give us such a love of truth, that no false thing may ever be able to lure us from it.
So grant that all our lives we may know, and love, and live the truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

—From Prayers for the Christian Year by William Barclay

Father Carretto Waxes Eloquent on the Nature of the Revelation of God

We need loving communication, we need the presence of the Spirit.

That is why I do not believe in theologians who do not pray, who are not in humble communication of love with God.

Neither do I believe in the existence of any human power to pass on authentic knowledge of God.

Only God can speak about himself, and only the Holy Spirit, who is love, can communicate this knowledge to us.

When there is a crisis in the Church, it is always here: a crisis of contemplation.

The Church wants to feel able to explain about her spouse even when she has lost sight of him; even when, although she has not been divorced, she no longer knows his embrace, because curiosity has gotten the better of her and she has gone searching for other people and other things.

The revelation of a triune God in the unit of a single nature, the revelation of a divine Holy Spirit present in us, is not on the human level; it does not belong to the realm of reason. It is a personal communication which God alone can give, and the task of giving it belongs to the Holy Spirit, who is the same love which unites the Father and the Son.

The Holy Spirit is the fullness and the joy of God.

It is so difficult to speak of these things. We have to babble like children, but at least, like children, we can say over and over again, tirelessly, “Spirit of God, reveal yourself to me, your child.”

And we can avoid pretending that knowledge of God could be the fruit of our gray matter.

Then, and only then, shall we be capable of prayer; borne to the frontier of our radical incapacity, which love has made the beatitude of poverty, we shall be able invoke God’s coming to us, “Come, creator Spirit!”

—From The God Who Comes by Carlo Carretto