Father Philip Sang: Faith in the Midst of Storm

Sermon delivered on Trinity 3B, Sunday, June 20, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: 1 Samuel 17.1a, 4-11, 19-49; Psalm 9.9-20; 2 Corinthians 6.1-13; St. Mark 4.35-41.

A story is told of a young lady who was driving along with her father one day. They came upon a storm, and the young lady asked her father, “What should I do?”

He said “keep driving”. Cars began to pull over to the side, the storm was Getting worse.

“What should I do?” The young lady asked?

“Keep driving,” her father replied.

On up a few feet, she noticed that eighteen wheelers were also pulling over. She told her dad, “I must pull over, I can barely see ahead. It is Terrible, and everyone is pulling over!”

Her father told her, “Don’t give up, just keep driving!”

Now the storm was terrible, but she never stopped driving, and soon she could see a little more clearly. After a couple of miles she was again on dry land, and the sun came out.

Her father said, “Now you can pull over and get out.”

She said “But why now?”

He said “When you get out, look back at all the people that gave up and are still in the storm, because you never gave up, your storm is now over.”

Moral Lesson: While there are sometimes legitimate reasons for stopping, oftentimes dry land is right in front of us — we just can’t see it while sitting in the storm. This is a lesson that we can apply to all facets of life.

So when we hear in our Gospel ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ well in my own way, I have a sense of what they were feeling.

They were stuck on a boat in the middle of the lake, and taking on water, and in danger of sinking, some of them were seasoned fishermen, and so we know that this is no ordinary storm, because if it was, then they would have dealt with it themselves, there was only one thing they could do, and that was to wake up Jesus.

Immediately he rebuked the wind and the raging sea, and all was well once again.

But as I thought about this reading the question which pre-occupied me was why did Jesus say ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’

This story deals with the principle question of our faith, where do we place our hope, who do we trust above all others, and how do we demonstrate that trust within our lives.

We all know that when life is easy and everything is fine, then it doesn’t take much effort to have faith in God, we can almost take it for granted. But when trouble strikes our lives, how far do we go to try and resolve our problems ourselves before turning to God to help us?

We all experience storms in our lives, where there is a real and present danger, but there are those storms which we encounter in our personal lives, be it a tragedy, bad news or a situation which is just too big for us to cope with on our own.

Is our first reaction to panic and to try and resolve the problem for ourselves, or do we turn to God and ask him to help us, to give us the strength and the courage that we need to face the situation?

In our Old Testament lesson we heard of the story of David and Goliath. In the midst of this storm that faced the children of Israel David felt that something had to be done even when the great army of Israel was at the verge of giving up. Faith in the midst of storm

We all need to remember that it’s never the trial that makes us stronger; it’s what we choose to do with that trial.

If we choose to lay it at the foot of the cross, and say we give this trial to you. Then in faith and trust that he will help us, we can remember what it says in the book of James.
‘whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete and lack nothing.

We have a God who walks with us, not only in the easy times, but also in the storms and the trials that we face in our lives. God is the one who can calm the storms for us, the one who can bring us the hope and the knowledge that we need to face any situation, however dire we may feel that the situation is.

As Christians we don’t walk the journey of life on our own, we walk with a God who wants to know us, to be there for us in everything that we have to face, and when we call upon him we can have the confidence, the faith, to know that he will be there to guide and strengthen us in any situation.

As I was preparing I came across this prayer by Lisa Engelhardt that I would like to share with you. It says,

If you have a secret sorrow,
a burden or a loss,
an aching need for healing,
Hang it on the cross.
If worry steals your sleep,
and makes you turn and toss,
if your heart is feeling heavy,
hang it on the cross.
Every obstacle to faith,
or doubt you come across,
every prayer unanswered,
Hang it on the cross.
For Christ has borne our brokenness,
and dearly paid the cost,
to turn our trials to triumph.
Hang it on the cross.
Lisa O. Engelhardt

Every Sunday before we dismiss at the end of our service we remind ourselves what we need to do as we face the week ahead: to send all our problems, all our difficulties, and all the devil’s work to the cross of Christ and to set all our hopes on the risen Christ

Sadly, far too often, we act like the disciples who were afraid on the boat, we try to face the problems that we encounter on our own, we look to the world, and its solutions, and often find that the solutions it offers don’t bring us the peace that we long for, our faith doesn’t enter into the equation.

Today Our Gospel reminds us that Christ stilled the waters for the disciples, let us remember this morning that whenever we turn to Christ, He will be an ever-present help to us and be there as our guide in all the storms that we encounter in our lives. Faith in the midst of a storm.

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

Father Santosh Madanu: The Parables of the Kingdom of God

Sermon delivered on Trinity 2B, Sunday, June 13, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: 1 Samuel 15.34-16.13; Psalm 20; 2 Corinthians 5.6-17; St. Mark 4.26-34.

Prayer: Lord, God the almighty Father, fill me with your Holy Spirit and transform me into the Christ-like holiness you desire. Increase my zeal for your kingdom and instill in me a holy desire to live for your greater glory. In Jesus precious name we pray. Amen. 

In this parable of growing seed Jesus shows us that the Word of God s like the seed that causes the growth of the kingdom of God 

Today we shall see that Jesus’ Parable of the Growing Seed presupposes this very thing that the Word of God always accomplishes His purposes, for in this parable Jesus shows us that the Word of God causes the growth of the kingdom of God until He returns

In a well-known passage, the LORD spoke through the Prophet Isaiah about the power and effectiveness of His word to accomplish His intended purposes:

Isaiah 55:6-11 Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. 8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

What is The Context of the Parable?

The preceding context of this parable features the Parable of the Sower that Jesus told to the crowds who gathered to hear His teaching (vss. 1-9).

Here Jesus describes the advancement of the kingdom of God by means of the analogy of a farmer sowing seed. The seed represents the preaching of the Word, which Jesus has already identified as the means by which the kingdom is advanced in this world 

Application: The application to us should be fairly obvious. As we continue to sow the seed of the Word, the kingdom of God is growing in a manner that we do not cause and that we cannot fully comprehend. 

1 Corinthians 3:5-7       who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

This is a lesson we must remember as we sow the seed of the kingdom, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world. We must realize that true growth comes from God Himself

Proclamation of the Kingdom of God

As Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God, he demonstrated his mercy by calling all to repentance.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” –Mark 1:14-15

 “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” ( Jn 18:36) “Verily, verily I say unto thee, unless a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” ( Jn 3:5) “I have come to call sinners, not the just.” (Mk 5:32)

We can be thankful for the grace that God extends to us, repenting of our sins and resting in his mercy.

The Proclamation of the Kingdom. When Jesus spoke about the kingdom, he perplexed people. They had a certain image of God and his ways, and Jesus turned them upside down and inside out. In our own ways, we too have images of God and ways of thinking about how God does things that he wants to turn upside down—which as it turns out will be right side up.

“With what can we compare the kingdom of God?”

What can mustard seeds teach us about the kingdom of God?  The tiny mustard seed literally grew to be a tree which attracted numerous birds because they loved the little black mustard seed it produced. God’s kingdom works in a similar fashion. It starts from the smallest beginnings in the hearts of men and women who are receptive to God’s word. And it works unseen and causes a transformation from within. Just as a seed has no power to change itself until it is planted in the ground, so we cannot change our lives to be like God until God gives us the power of his Holy Spirit. The Lord of the Universe is ever ready to transform us by the power of his Spirit. 

Are you ready to let God change you by his grace and power? 

The kingdom of God produces a transformation in those who receive the new life which Jesus Christ offers. When we yield to Jesus Christ, our lives are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Paul the Apostle says, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7).

Do you believe in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit?

The Gospel of Matthew dedicated to the parables of the Kingdom of God (13:44-52). Among these are two small masterpieces: the parables of the treasure hidden in the field and of the pearl of great value. They tell us that the discovery of the Kingdom of God can happen suddenly like the farmer who, ploughing, finds an unexpected treasure; or after a long search, like the pearl merchant who eventually finds the most precious pearl, so long dreamt of. Yet, in each case the point is that the treasure and the pearl are worth more than all other possessions; and therefore when the farmer and the merchant discover them, they give up everything else in order to obtain them. They do not need to rationalize or think about it or reflect: they immediately perceive the incomparable value of what they’ve found and they are prepared to lose everything in order to have it.

*This is how it is with the Kingdom of God those who find it have no doubts, they sense that this is what they have been seeking and waiting for; and this is what fulfills their most authentic aspirations. And it really is like this: those who know Jesus, encounter Him personally, are captivated, and attracted by so much goodness, so much truth, so much beauty, and all with great humility and simplicity. To seek Jesus, to find Jesus: this is the great treasure!

Many people, many saints, reading the Gospel with an open heart, have been so struck by Jesus they convert to Him. Let us think of St Francis of Assisi: he was already a Christian, though a “rosewater” Christian or baby Christian or easy Christian, When he read the Gospel, in that decisive moment of his youth, he encountered Jesus and discovered the Kingdom of God; with this, all his dreams of worldly glory vanished. The Gospel allows you to know the real Jesus, it lets you know the living Jesus; it speaks to your heart and changes your life. And then yes, you leave it all. You can effectively change lifestyles, or continue to do what you did before but you are someone else, you are reborn: you have found what gives meaning, what gives flavor, what gives light to all things, even to toil, even to suffering, and even to death.

Jesus spoke very clearly about the kingdom of God and indicated the importance of kingdom of God

Mathew 6: 33 “But seek first the Kingdom of God, and His Righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Example of hide and seek game of children: Children seek every nook and Connor until finding every one. 

So seek with all the love and with all your strength till you find the kingdom of God till the end of your life. Because God is ready and available for us to find Him.  Need to make conscience decision to turn toward God rather than to anxiety, worry and loving the name and fame and pleasing the people around you.

How do you seek? How can a Christian or non-Christian seek first the kingdom of God?

1.  Prayer: 1 Thessalonians 5:17

2. Bible Reading: Psalm 119 9 and 119: 105

3. Worship and Praise and Thanks giving: Recognize God as the Almighty worship in the living room and in and out and at the church. Psalm 22:3 God inhabits the praises of His people; Psalm 100:4

4. Repentance (hearts attitude is necessary for salvation) John 3:16

5. Bible verses Memorization: Ephesians 6; Psalms 119:11

I seek God above all else.  Because nothing close to his comparison.  Jesus Christ is Trust worthy.

Never to miss kingdom of God with the worries, worldly concerns, and temptations most of face day to day life.  Because God the father promised us to give us what we need every day. We can Trust Him.

Act 17:24-27

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us”.

We got to talk about God’s dealing with humans and the universe.  God has spoken already (Bible) 

There is lot of difference between what we say and what we think about what we believe in God and then we live differently meaning in reality some of us may not live the faith that we (they) received through the sacraments.  This is stated belief verses real belief in living.

I would like to reflect with you on the first reading of today 1 Samuel 15:34-16, 13.

Why God did reject Saul whom he chose and made as first king of Israel?

Because Saul betrayed his own soul in the sight of God. 

 1.  Saul offered the sacrifices that only priest or prophet allowed to do.  He did it to please the people.  This is a violation of the law of God.  This is a manipulation. This is what everyone must know no king, no president, no prime minister with all their authority have no right and  no authority to do the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist but only the deacons, priests and bishops are allowed.

2.  Saul was concerned about his image and popularity rather than glory of God

3.  Saul killed the priests – the servants of God.

Can God reject His chosen ones- even the priests, religious and Christians if they disobey?

Yes. If anyone deliberately and consciously disobeys God and does not observe His Ten

Commandments.  Because there is no genuine love of God and love of neighbor.

The scripture is very clear “the obedience is better than the sacrifice.  We may try to please God with all the good works- charities towards the sick and needy, but if we do not obey God, do not like to transform our lives, God may reject us.

The point is we must Trust in Jesus and should believe in the authority of the Bible and pray to God and seek constantly his guidance and protection.

I want you to listen to these words of Prophet Samuel to Saul the king,

 God has abandoned you, left you, God has taken your thrown.  I can’t do anything.  Saul sought for his fame and name, popularity, loved the wealth at the cost of loving and trusting God.

Prayer: Let us pray, God we love you.  We trust in you.  We want to know more about you and your kingdom.  Because the world is in need of your kingdom for its salvation, to live in love and peace.  

We are unable to fix the problems of the world especially Covid 19.  Please destroy this virus and free us from it.

We pray Lord that through your body and blood and soul and divinity that you’re Kingdom of love, justice and peace may reign in us and in the whole world.

June 6, 2021: FDR’s D-Day Prayer

“My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far. 

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer: 

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. 

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. 

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph. 

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war. 

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. 

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum

Read (and pray) it all.

Father John Jorden: Unless You Eat MY Body and Drink MY Blood…

Sermon delivered on the Feast of Corpus Christi (transferred), Sunday, June 6, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Jorden celebrates his 50th ordination anniversary with us today but gets all whiny when we ask for a written manuscript. Nobody’s got time for that so click here to listen to the audio podcast of his sermon.

Lectionary texts: Genesis 14.18-20; Psalm 116.10-17; 1 Corinthians 11.23-26; John 6.51-58.

Father Philip Sang: Adopted to Blessed Trinity

Sermon delivered on Trinity Sunday B, May 30, 2021 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: Isaiah 6.1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8.12-17; St. John 3.1-17.

Grace and peace to you all, in the name of the Holy Blessed Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Amen.

A friend of mine decided to adopt a baby from Africa, it took years for the adoption to go through. Painstaking planning, paperwork, interviews. And every time when it seemed they were nearing completion, something would come up and the process would be delayed. When my friend finally did bring the adopted child home, to say they were happy was the understatement.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” In the ancient world, for one who once was a slave to be adopted into a household was a profound entry into a family it meant having a name, a place, and a future. It is with this reality as backdrop that Paul says WE are adopted into the family of God, becoming now and forever children of God. And not just children, he continues, but heirs of God, heirs with Christ, this means we have a name, a place, and a future in this family. 

As I watch children I know who have become part of a family through adoption grow, I marvel at the giftedness of such choosing, adoption is a deliberate and intentional act of love and welcome.

When I look at families through adoption, I am overwhelmed by the idea that God has welcomed me into God’s family in the same way. I am struck by Paul’s words: “We have not received a spirit of slavery to fall back in fear, but a spirit of adoption.” In Christ, we have a name, a place, a future. 

We’ve been brought into this identity, not accidentally, but by a deliberate act of inclusion and welcome. God our Father is always concerned for our wellbeing and good purpose in our lives, God is always seeking to bless us, and as His children we have identity in Him, we have a new name we identify with,  a place we belong to, and a future. 

On Memorial Day we remember those fallen Heroes who sacrificed and put their lives in the liveline for the love of this country they belong to, defending the name they bear, American, and securing a future for us and them.

It is to brothers and sisters that Paul writes his letter to the Romans. These brothers and sisters are a mix of Jewish and Gentile Christians, most of whom he had never met. Brothers and sisters? That is no small statement, In Christ, with all the things in the world that might divide us, such divisions are insignificant next to that which connects us. Brothers and sisters, brought together by a promise, and now we share one name, belong to the same kingdom, and a new future together. 

No less profound is what John writes in our gospel reading today, where we overhear Jesus teaching Nicodemus, a Pharisee, about being “born from above”; born of the spirit. Nicodemus had come to Jesus by night, secretly, in darkness. Nicodemus was one who knew the law well. He practiced his faith and observed all the religious requirements of his day. But he was baffled by Jesus when he said, “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

This was radical talk, birth status in the ancient world was very important. Who you were was all about who you were born to. “Birth status” was the single most important factor in determining a person’s place in society; one’s “class”; one’s honor rating; one’s level of respect; one’s perceived value. 

Of course, this is often true in our world too. 

Growing up, I remember I benefited from the respect my parents had earned in our community. I was the son of Samuel and Rebecca, and that carried a certain idea of who I was, and expectation of how I would behave.

I am grateful for my family, my Sang name, my place in the family, and the future they’ve helped pave for me.

Every baptism we witness and celebrate reminds us of our spiritual rebirth into the kingdom of God and into this family.

We baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When Jesus commissions us to do so at the end of Matthew’s gospel, in Greek he says we baptize INTO the name of the father, INTO the Son, INTO Holy Spirit. INTO this relationship, INTO this story of faith that gives meaning and purpose to our living. To simplify even better the word INTO is also translated to belong to.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit…yes, it is Trinity Sunday today. It is the only Sunday of the church year named not for a teaching of Jesus, or historic event in his life or the life of the early church…but for a church doctrine.

The word “TRINITY” doesn’t even appear in the Bible. This doctrine of the trinity didn’t really take shape until the 4th century, when arguments arose surrounding the identity of Jesus. Who is God? And who is Jesus in relationship to God? Was he divine? Was he only human? And what about the spirit that Jesus promises? 

Questions like these have led to the development of Creeds and doctrines alike. These are big questions that really we cannot answer with full certainty. 

As your servants, your priests, Father Kevin, Father Wylie, Father Santosh and I, we want you to ask us questions in regard to faith that are hard to answer, because faith is about seeking, and wondering, and asking hard questions of ourselves, and of God. Where is God, in suffering? Where is God beyond Christian faith? What does heaven really mean?

These are questions of faith, and the more we ask hard questions like these, the more we discover that a simple answer just doesn’t suffice. A “right” answer doesn’t really exist…because FAITH is not just about the right doctrine, or a set of rules. Faith is a relationship. 

In conclusion on this Trinity Sunday, as we celebrate the love of God we are invited into and the experience of God we are invited to share with others. 

As we go home today one way we can celebrate our faith and our Christian family is for all of us to spend time this week to pray for our new building as a reminder of our shared faith and prayers, our shared mission and ministry, shared name, shared place, and shared future in Christ, for we have been adopted INTO or rather to belong to Blessed Trinity.

In the name of the Blessed Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit Amen

A Prayer for Memorial Day 2021

Adapted from here:

Eternal God,
Creator of years, of centuries,
Lord of whatever is beyond time,
Maker of all species and master of all history —
How shall we speak to you
from our smallness and inconsequence?
Except that you have called us to worship you in spirit and in truth;
You have dignified us with loves and loyalties;
You have lifted us up with your loving-kindnesses.
Therefore we are bold to come before you without groveling
(though we sometimes feel that low)
and without fear
(though we are often anxious).
We sing with spirit and pray with courage
because you have dignified us;
You have redeemed us from the aimlessness
of things going meaninglessly well.

God, lift the hearts of those
for whom this holiday is not just diversion,
but painful memory and continued deprivation.
Bless those whose dear ones have died
needlessly, wastefully (as it seems)
in accident or misadventure.
We remember with compassion and thanksgiving those who have died
serving this country in times of war.

We all must come to bereavement and separation,
when all the answers we are offered
fail the question death asks of each of us.
But we believe that you will provide for us
as others have been provided with the fulfillment of
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”
because we believe that you have raised Jesus our Lord from the dead
and conquered death itself,
and that you have given us the privilege
of sharing in his risen life as his followers,
both now and for all eternity.
We offer our prayers and thanksgiving
in Jesus our risen Lord’s name. Amen.

Thanksgiving for the Methodists in My Life on John and Charles Wesley’s Feast Day 2021

On this feast day of John and Charles Wesley, I am thankful for John Wesley and my Methodist heritage, even though I have returned to the mother Church and am now an Anglican priest. I am especially thankful that God blessed me with Dr. Paul Chiles, Dr. Phil Webb, Rev. Ron Payne, and Rev. Bill Patterson. Each of these men served as ministers in the Methodist churches I attended in Van Wert, Perrysburg, and Toledo respectively, and each had a profound influence on my spiritual development.

And of course I am thankful for my parents who were faithful Methodists all their married lives and who hauled me off to church every Sunday. 🙂

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John and Charles Wesley 2021

A day to remember two of my favorite theologians. John especially is one of my personal heroes.

From here:

The Wesley brothers, born in 1703 and 1707, were leaders of the evangelical revival in the Church of England in the eighteenth century. They both attended Oxford University , and there they gathered a few friends with whom they undertook a strict adherence to the worship and discipline of the Book of Common Prayer, from which strict observance they received the nickname, “Methodists.” Having been ordained, they went to the American colony of Georgia in 1735, John as a missionary and Charles as secretary to Governor Oglethorpe. They found the experience disheartening, and returned home in a few years. There, three days apart, they underwent a conversion experience. John, present with a group of Moravians who were reading Martin Luther‘s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, received a strong emotional awareness of the love of Christ displayed in freely forgiving his sins and granting him eternal life. Following this experience, John and Charles, with others, set about to stir up in others a like awareness of and response to the saving love of God. Of the two, John was the more powerful preacher, and averaged 8000 miles of travel a year, mostly on horseback. At the time of his death he was probably the best known and best loved man in England.

Read it all.

Lord God,
who inspired your servants John and Charles Wesley
with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls,
and endowed them with eloquence in speech and song:
Kindle in your Church, we entreat you, such fervor,
that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed,
and those who have not known Christ may turn to him and be saved;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Father Santosh Madanu: The Feast of Pentecost 2021

Sermon delivered on Pentecost Sunday B, May 23, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Acts 2.1-21; Romans 8.22-27; St. John 15.26-27, 16.4b-15.

The festival of Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks. In the Christian tradition, this event represents the birth of the early church.

The day of “Pentecost” was and still is observed by Israel today. It is a celebration which occurs fifty days after the celebration of the “Passover”, which commemorates Israel’s deliverance out of the bondage of ancient Egypt. The day of “Pentecost” is also the day chosen by the Lord to begin the fulfillment of prophecy of Joel 2:28: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh….”
The day of Pentecost was celebrated long before Jesus was born. It was a Jewish celebration just like we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. The Jewish people celebrate Pentecost (Shavuot) in Thanksgiving for the first Wheat harvest, but it was later connected to the commemoration of the Law given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. In the Old Testament, this Jewish observance was known as the Festival of Weeks, or, more simply, Weeks (Shavuot in Hebrew). One can find its origin in the book of Leviticus 23:16, which instructs people to count seven weeks or the fiftieth day after Passover. The word “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word “Pentekostos.” which means “Fifty.” It was an important Jewish celebration even during the time of our Lord Jesus. This is simply the reason why the Apostles were gathered in a room, precisely to celebrate Pentecost. What comes at first as the traditional Jewish Thanksgiving observance, turned out to become a more significant event in the life of the Apostles and us as a Church.

On that day of ”Pentecost”, God’s Holy Spirit came upon the waiting praying disciples, who had gathered with others in the upper room at Jerusalem. Their complete dedication and commitment to the Christ and His commission, evoked a mighty baptism of God’s power. This outpouring was evidenced initially by their speaking in tongues (Acts 2:4). The Spirit was resident in their lives from that moment as they witnessed many outstanding miraculous happenings (Acts 3:1-7; 4:31). As a result, they were able to lead victorious lives as Christians in Christ as a result of their Pentecostal experience.

It is important to note that on the “Day of Pentecost”. In addition to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, there were two baptisms disclosed. There was a baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues, and the proclaiming of water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ by Peter (Acts 2:38). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is what Jesus referred to as being “born again” in John 3:3-7. The second baptism, was the fulfillment of Matthew 28:19, where Jesus commanded them to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

If we go back to the day of Pentecost, we discover that the first task of the Church is proclamation. Yet we also see that the Apostles devised no strategy; when they were locked in there, in the Upper Room, they were not strategizing, no, they were not drafting any pastoral plan. The Apostles set off: unprepared, yet putting their lives on the line. One thing kept them going: the desire to give what they received. The opening part of the First Letter of Saint John is beautiful: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you” (cf. 1:3).

In the Old Testament, the day of Pentecost was a celebration held 50 days after the Jewish festival of Passover (Leviticus 23:16, Exodus 34:22). In the New Testament, on the day of Pentecost, after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit came powerfully upon His disciples, enabling them to speak in foreign languages (sometimes called “tongues”) that they had not studied, and to proclaim the Gospel boldly to those gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2). The events recounted on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 have a number of important implications for Christians today.

Pentecost Reminds Us Of The Importance Of The Great Commission.

In order to really grasp the “why” of Pentecost, it helps to understand the “when.” Pentecost took place on the heels of Jesus’ final command, “Go and make disciples.” After a brief pause — like the calm before a mighty storm — the Holy Spirit arrived. A major part of his mission was to empower the disciples to fulfill Christ’s command. The injunction to make disciples of all nations and teach them all things is a tall order. Only the Spirit could aid them. When we celebrate Pentecost, we can’t help but realize the magnificent responsibility we have been given in the Great Commission.

Presence of Jesus with us

After His resurrection, Jesus promised to always be with the disciples (Matthew 28:20). Then He left them and went up to heaven (Luke 24:51). However, the spirit of Jesus (namely, the Holy Spirit) came upon the disciples at Pentecost, fulfilling Jesus’ promise to be with the disciples always.

Power for testimony

The disciples were scared and not yet proclaiming the Gospel widely, prior to Pentecost. Jesus knew this and told them that He was sending His Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49, John 14:16-18). That way, they would receive power to be witnesses of their risen Lord, Jesus Christ, throughout the world (Acts 1:8). Before Pentecost, the Spirit was not absent as He was involved in creation (Genesis 1:2) and in regenerating God’s elect so that they would believe in Him (John 3:8, Titus 3:5). But at Pentecost, the Spirit came much more powerfully upon Jesus’ disciples, and now dwells in (and empowers)all disciples of Jesus today (Ephesians 1:13-14). The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost and the specific events of that day were a one-time event, but the Spirit continues to be present with all Christians, enabling them to be tell others about Christ and to live the Christian life.

The Holy Spirit and the effect of witnessing the Gospel :The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is also a blessing in another way. It’s not because of the apostles that so many people repented and started to believe in Christ Jesus. No apostle or preacher or witness of the Gospel can change the heart of someone else. Neither can a hearer of the Gospel change his or her own heart. But the Holy Spirit uses the Gospel of Jesus Christ to create new life in people (John 3:8). As a result of that renewing work of the Spirit people start to acknowledge their sins and seek salvation in Jesus Christ, who is crucified and resurrected from the dead. So the conversion into Christianity is the conversion of the heart by the Holy Spirit when one makes the decision to follow Jesus Christ and to surrender to God the almighty and obey the Ten Commandments.

We are living in the end times

After the Spirit came at Pentecost, Peter stood up and explained to those listening about the meaning of what they had seen and heard. His explanation is recorded in Acts 2:14-36. In short, he said that the coming of the Spirit was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy about what would happen when the Messiah (Jesus Christ) came at the end of time. The amazing events of Pentecost signal the beginning of the end of the world. Many people think about the end of the world as something in the far future, but in the Bible, the end of the world (or, the end times) is a long period of time, beginning with the first coming of Christ 2000 years ago and concluding with the second coming of Christ when He returns to judge the world. Everything in-between the first and second coming of Christ is considered the end times. The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost was a sign that the end of the world is coming.

Harmony within human beings. Deep down, in their hearts, the disciples needed to be changed. Their story teaches us that even seeing the Risen Lord is not enough, unless we welcome him into our hearts. It is no use knowing that the Risen One is alive, unless we too live as risen ones. It is the Spirit who makes Jesus live within us; he raises us up from within. That is why when Jesus appears to his disciples, he repeats the words, “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19.21), and bestows the Spirit. That is what peace really is, the peace bestowed on the Apostles. That peace does not have to do with resolving outward problems – God does not spare his disciples from tribulation and persecution. Rather, it has to do with receiving the Holy Spirit. The peace bestowed on the apostles, the peace that does not bring freedom from problems but in problems, is offered to each of us. Filled with his peace, our hearts are like a deep sea, which remains peaceful, even when its surface is swept by waves. It is a harmony so profound that it can even turn persecutions into blessings. Yet how often we choose to remain on the surface! Rather than seeking the Spirit, we try to keep afloat, thinking that everything will improve once this or that problem is over, once I no longer see that person, once things get better. But to do so is to stay on the surface: when one problem goes away, another arrives, and once more we grow anxious and ill at ease. Avoiding those who do not think as we do will not bring serenity. Resolving momentary problems will not bring peace. What makes a difference is the peace of Jesus, the harmony of the Spirit.

St. Augustine has an explanation for this: “Perhaps this double giving of the Holy Spirit was done in manifestation of the two commandments of love, that is, of neighbor and of God, in order that love might be shown to belong to the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit, therefore, reconciles us with God and one another. Unity is, indeed, the fruit of the Holy Spirit. This is what St. Paul pointed out “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…and we were all given to drink of one Spirit” (1Cor 12:13). It is only in the Holy Spirit that we can say, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”” (Rom 8:14-15). So, in the third Eucharistic Prayer, we ask God: “Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with the Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ.”

In the biography, Mother Teresa speaks of surprise. At her age, time and place, would she, could she do something different, be someone different? She was like the Apostles hiding behind the closed doors of her cloister. She said, Christ surprised her. He came through the locked doors and breathed His Spirit on her. He called her to a second vocation.

The Spirit is full of surprises. We have to admit that secularism and affluence have muted the presence of God in our part of the world, but all is not lost. History has shown us that even in our worst moments, Jesus’ ever-present Spirit can break through and raise up saints who turn things around. They call us back to the Gospel and give us hope.

A Francis of Assisi pops up out of the moral mess of the twelfth century. Maximilian Kolbe steps forward from the Nazi madness to die a martyr. Rosa Parks says no to racial prejudice and refuses to move to the back of the bus. Nelson Mandela rejects apartheid and goes to prison for twenty years.

Ascension and Pentecost tell us that God is still present, still speaks, still sends out disciples to make a difference, and still calls. Not just the St. Francis’ and the Kolbe’s and the Park’s and Mandela’s, but you and me. What Jesus said at Ascension still remains valid and indispensable: You be My witness. We are the Church, and what we do, the Church does. And what we fail to do, the Church fails to do.

How many people on the Day of Pentecost received The Holy?

About one hundred and twenty followers of Christ (Acts 1:15) were present, including the Twelve Apostles (Matthias was Judas’ replacement) (Acts 1:13, 26), Jesus’ mother Mary, other female disciples and his brothers (Acts 1:14).

The first conversion recorded in Acts is the conversion of many people after Peter preached the first sermon about Jesus on the Day of Pentecost. This was quite an amazing day as it marked the beginning of the church that Jesus established.

Before He left this world and ascended into heaven, Jesus told the apostles to stay in Jerusalem. They were to wait there for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which would happen soon. Jesus told them that the Holy Spirit would grant them power and, once that happened, the apostles were to begin teaching the story of Jesus—the gospel. They were to begin in Jerusalem, then in the surrounding lands and finally to all the earth. After Jesus had ascended, the apostles stayed together and continued in prayer and worship, and this brings us to the beginning of Acts 2.

Peter Preaches Jesus

On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and filled the apostles in a spectacular display. There was a great rushing sound and tongues of fire came and sat upon each apostle. They began to speak to a crowd filled with people who spoke many different languages, and every person heard the apostle’s words in their own native language. This, of course, made quite an impression on the crowd. They were all amazed, and some wondered what this meant while others said the apostles must be drunk. It was then that Peter began preaching the very first sermon about Jesus. The Bible account of all this is in Acts 2:1-14.

Peter began his lesson by assuring the crowd that the apostles were not drunk as it was around 9:00 in the morning. Instead, he told them, this was the fulfillment of the prophecy found in Joel 2:28-32. Peter went to remind them that they had seen Jesus the wonders that God had worked through Him, and that they in turn had crucified and killed Him. God then raised Jesus from the dead because, as Peter said, death could not hold Jesus. This part of Peter’s sermon is recorded in Acts 2:15-24.

In Acts 2:25-35, Peter went on to explain that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy of David and the promised Messiah of the line of David. Peter closed this first sermon with a very powerful declaration:

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

The Crowd’s Reaction & Peter’s Instruction

That was quite an accusation! For centuries and centuries and centuries, the Jews had awaited the Messiah who would save them. Now, Peter tells them that their Messiah had in fact come, but that they themselves had killed Him. How did the crowd react to this? We find out in the next verse:

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

There are two important things to notice in this response to Peter’s sermon. First, the crowd was “cut to the heart”. The message about Jesus as the Messiah had a deep effect on them. They very obviously believed what Peter taught because they were so moved that they felt the immediate need to do something. That need caused them to ask the right question. That question is the second important thing we need to notice about this verse, “What shall we do?”
These people knew that their Messiah had come, that Jesus was that promised Messiah and that they had crucified Him. How should they respond, they asked, to this information? All these things had happened, but what could they possibly do in the face of the guilt that they now felt? They were “cut to the heart” and felt compelled to do something, but what should they do? Peter gave them their answer:

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”

Peter’s instruction is clear and simple. The people, who had heard and believed when Peter preached to them the gospel of Jesus Christ, must do two things:

  1. Repent
  2. Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins

When they did these things, the people would receive something very special, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the promise that was made to them and guaranteed through the death of Christ on the cross. Peter said that, in doing all the things that he taught, the people would be saved from the corruption of this world.

The Crowd’s Response

So what happened next? Did the crowd do as Peter told them to do? The story continues:

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in prayers.

Yes! The people who received—heard and believed—the gospel were baptized. On that one day and in response to that one sermon, about 3,000 people did what Peter told them to do. Not only did they obey at that moment, but they continued living as the apostles told them to live and they continued living this way, according to the apostles’ doctrine, without wavering and without deviating from what the apostles had taught them. They spent their time together, they ate together and they prayed together.

The next few verses, Acts 2:43-45, describe how these first Christians lived.

The apostles continued to do great wonders and all of the faithful associated with one other in a spirit of togetherness and unity. They sold their things and gave the money to those who needed it more. When we read how these first Christians lived, we see that their lives were filled with the great joy of leading a simple life with those who shared their faith.

Acts 2 closes with a summary and an important lesson about the church that Jesus established:

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
Again, the first Christians lived in a spirit of unity and joy in their shared faith. Now, pay close attention to that last sentence, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

Notice that people didn’t join the church. People who were already in the church did not choose and induct new members into the church. God added to His own church those who were being saved! From that day to this day, nothing has changed. That’s still the way it works. When we obey the gospel, when we do what we are instructed to do by the divinely inspired words of the Bible, God adds us to His church.

Notice also the use of the phrase “those who were being saved.” Who was being saved? The people who did what Peter told them to do were being saved. It was those people, the ones who heard the gospel, believed the gospel, repented, were baptized for the remission of sins and continued to lead faithful lives who were saved and whom God added to His church. Again, things haven’t changed since that day.

Finally, notice what this says about the church. The church is not a building. The church is not an institution that was created by men and operates according to some sort of organizational documents and bylaws. The church is nothing more—and nothing less—than the collection of all saved people in the world. It’s that simple!

Conclusion:

  1. Conversion
  2. Hear
  3. Believe
  4. Repent
  5. Confess
  6. Be Baptized

The Holy Spirit dwells inside those who believe in Jesus Christ! The Holy Spirit is present throughout our daily lives. The Holy Spirit is our comfort, our seal, our breath and our joy! In the book of Acts form the Bible, we read about the coming and the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the day of Pentecost:

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4

Pentecost 2021: An Ancient Account of how Pentecost was Celebrated

From here.

But on the fiftieth day, that is, the Lord’s Day, when the people have a very great deal to go through, everything that is customary is done from the first cockcrow onwards; vigil is kept in the Anastasis, and the bishop reads the passage from the Gospel that is always read on the Lord’s Day, namely, the account of the Lord’s Resurrection, and afterwards everything customary is done in the Anastasis [the cross], just as throughout the whole year. But when morning is come, all the people proceed to the great church, that is, to the martyrium [the church], and all things usual are done there; the priests preach and then the bishop, and all things that are prescribed are done, the oblation being made, as is customary on the Lord’s Day, only the same dismissal in the martyrium is hastened, in order that it may be made before the third hour [9am].

And when the dismissal has been made at the martyrium, all the people, to a man, escort the bishop with hymns to Sion, [so that] they are in Sion when the third hour is fully come. And on their arrival there the passage from the Acts of the Apostles is read where the Spirit came down so that all tongues [were heard and all men] understood the things that were being spoken, and the dismissal takes place afterwards in due course For the priests read there from the Acts of the Apostles concerning the selfsame thing, because that is the place in Sion—there is another church there now—where once, after the Lord’s Passion, the multitude was gathered together with the Apostles, and where this was done, as we have said above. Afterwards the dismissal takes place in due course, and the oblation is made there. Then, that the people may be dismissed, the archdeacon raises his voice, and says: “Let us all be ready to day in Eleona, in the Imbomon [place of the Ascension], directly after the sixth hour [noon].”

So all the people return, each to his house, to rest themselves, and immediately after breakfast they ascend the Mount of Olives, that is, to Eleona, each as he can, so that there is no Christian left in the city who does not go. When, therefore, they have gone up the Mount of Olives, that is, to Eleona, they first enter the Imbomon, that is, the place whence the Lord ascended into heaven, and the bishops and the priests take their seat there, and likewise all the people. Lessons are read there with hymns interspersed, antiphons too are said suitable to the day and the place, also the prayers which are interspersed have likewise similar references. The passage from the Gospel is also read where it speaks of the Lord’s Ascension, also that from the Acts of the Apostles which tells of the Ascension of the Lord into heaven after His Resurrection. And when this is over, the catechumens and then the faithful are blessed, and they come down thence, it being already the ninth hour [3pm], and go with hymns to that church which is in Eleona, wherein is the cave where the Lord was wont to sit and teach His Apostles. And as it is already past the tenth hour [4pm] when they arrive, lucernare takes place there; prayer is made, and the catechumens and likewise the faithful are blessed.

And then all the people to a man descend thence with the bishop, saying hymns and antiphons suitable to that day, and so come very slowly to the martyrium. It is already night when they reach the gate of the city, and about two hundred church candles are provided for the use of the people. And as it is agood distance from the gate to the great church, that is, the martyrium, they arrive about the second hour of the night, for they go the whole way very slowly lest the people should be weary from being afoot. And when the great gates are opened, which face towards the market-place, all the people enter the martyrium with hymns and with the bishop. And when they have entered the church, hymns are said, prayer is made, the catechumens and also the faithful are blessed; after which they go again with hymns to the Anastasis, where on their arrival hymns and antiphons are said, prayer is made, the catechumens and also the faithful are blessed; this is likewise done at the Cross. Lastly, all the Christian people to a man escort the bishop with hymns to Sion, and when they are come there, suitable lessons are read, psalrns and antiphons are said, prayer is made, the catechumens and the faithful are blessed, and the dismissal takes place. And after the dismissal all approach the bishop’s hand, and then every one returns to his house about midnight. Thus very great fatigue is endured on that day, for vigil is kept at the Anastasis from the first cockcrow, and there is no pause from that time onward throughout the whole day, but the whole celebration (of the Feast) lasts so long that it is midnight when every one returns home after the dismissal has taken place at Sion.

—Egeria, Abbess (late 4th century), The Pilgrimage of Egeria85-90