A Prayer for Independence Day 2021

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

CW: Dealing with Decay, Dying, and Death

I wholeheartedly commend this to you.

Being involved with the decline of our [15 year old pet dog,] Daisy, I can feel this sense of outrage too – at least to a lesser degree. This is NOT right. Things should not be this way. This is not part of God’s good plans and purposes for us. Sin has screwed up everything, and even animals suffer as a result.

Read it all.

June 2021: The Power of the Gospel

We sat down to table and the officer began his story: “I have served in the army ever since I was quite young. I knew my duties and was a favorite of my superiors as a conscientious officer. But I was young, as were also my friends, and unhappily I started drinking. It went from bad to worse until drinking became an illness. When I did not drink, I was a good officer, but when I would start drinking, then I would have to go to bed for six weeks. My superiors were patient with me for a long time, but finally, for rudeness to the commanding officer while I was drunk, they reduced my rank to private and transferred me to a garrison for three years. They threatened me with more severe punishment if I would not improve and give up drinking. In this unfortunate condition all my efforts at self-control were of no avail and I could not stay sober for any length of time. Then I heard that I was to be sent to the guardhouse and I was beside myself with anguish.

“One day I was sitting in the barracks deep in thought. A monk came in to beg alms for the church. Those who had money gave what they could. When he approached me he asked, ‘Why are you so downcast?’ We started talking and I told him the cause of my grief. The monk sympathized with my situation and said, ‘My brother was once in a similar position, and I will tell you how he was cured. His spiritual father gave him a copy of the Gospels and strongly urged him to read a chapter whenever he wanted to take a drink. If the desire for a drink did not leave him after he read one chapter he was encouraged to read another and if necessary still another. My brother followed this advice, and after some time he lost all desire for alcoholic beverages. It is now fifteen years since he has touched a drop of alcohol. Why don’t you do the same, and you will discover how beneficial the reading of the Gospels can be. I have a copy at home and will gladly bring it to you.’

“I wasn’t very open to this idea so I objected, ‘How can your Gospels help when neither my efforts at selfcontrol nor medical aid could keep me sober?’ I spoke in this way because I never read the Gospels.

“‘Give it a chance,’ continued the monk reassuringly, ‘and you will find it very helpful.’

“The next day he brought me this copy of the Gospels. I opened it, browsed through it, and said, ‘I will not take it, for I cannot understand it; I am not accustomed to reading Church Slavonic.’

“The monk did not give up but continued to encourage me and explained that God’s special power is present in the Gospel through his words. He went on, ‘At the beginning be concerned only with reading it diligently; understanding will come later. One holy man says that “even when you don’t understand the word of God, the demons do, and they tremble”; and the passion for drink is without a doubt their work. And St. John Chrysostom in speaking about the power of the word of God says that the very room where the Gospel is kept has the power to ward off the spirits of darkness and thwart their intrigues.’

“I do not recall what I gave the monk when I took the copy of the Gospels from him, but I placed the book in my trunk with my other belongings and forgot about it. Some time later a strong desire to have a drink took hold of me and I opened the trunk to get some money and run to the tavern. But I saw the copy of the Gospels before I got to the money and I remembered clearly what the monk had told me. I opened the book and read the first chapter of Matthew without understanding anything. Again I remembered the monk’s words, ‘At the beginning be concerned only with reading it diligently; understanding will come later.’ So I read another chapter and found it a bit more comprehensible. Shortly after I began reading the third chapter, the curfew bell rang and it was no longer possible for me to leave the barracks.

“In the morning my first thought was to get a drink, but then I decided to read another chapter to see what would happen. I read it and did not go. Again I wanted a drink, but I started reading and I felt better. This gave me courage, and with every temptation for a drink I began reading a chapter from the Gospels. The more I read, the easier it became, and when I finally finished reading all four Gospels the compulsion for drink had disappeared completely; I was repelled by the very thought of it. It is now twenty years since I stopped drinking alcoholic beverages.

“Everyone was surprised at the change that took place in me, and after three years I was reinstated as an officer and then climbed up the ranks until I was made a commanding officer. Later I married a fine woman; we have saved some money, which we now share with the poor. Now I have a grown son who is a fine lad and he also is an officer in the army.”

—The Way of a Pilgrim

What a wonderful story of the multifaceted ways in which Christ works in our lives! The issue here is alcoholism, but don’t restrict the lesson to that. Christ can heal any affliction if we let him. Notice first how Christ uses human agency (the monk) to introduce the young soldier to his Gospel. Notice how the monk abandoned his agenda (begging alms for the church), at least temporarily, to address a person’s needs that he perceived. We have to be ready to see others in pain if we ever hope to help them address it. Notice too the monk’s gentle persistence and the faith he has in the transformative power of the Gospel in people’s lives, a faith based, in part, on past experience.

Next, pay attention to how Christ used circumstance instead of understanding to stay the young soldier’s hand from drinking. He read the Gospel without understanding it, but was prevented from going on a drinking binge because he had lingered too long in his quarters to read it. Was it really coincidence that the soldier found the gospels before he got to his drinking money? This is how God typically works to control the circumstances of our lives in a wise and loving way, but we have to pay attention to realize it!

Finally, mark how understanding occurs—through persistent reading. Ask anyone who reads the Bible regularly and systematically and you will hear this same answer. God grants understanding to humble minds willing to submit to his word (as opposed to trying to make his word submit to their agendas, which sadly many try to do, especially today) through our persistent reading of his word. God doesn’t beat us over the head to make us learn (usually). Instead he uses ordinary people and circumstances along with our own efforts to speak to and transform us. Under normal circumstances it would have been best if the soldier had read the gospels with others and learned how to interpret them from the tradition we have, but that didn’t happen in this case. No problem, though. God can use even less than ideal circumstances to break through to us, as the young solder discovered. That may not be sexy enough for some of us but it is much more effective over the long haul.

If you are struggling with your faith, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest this story and its lessons. Maybe you should even pick up the gospels and start to read them yourself. Here is indeed balm for your soul!

Out of the Depths: Learning to Trust Christ in a Fallen World

Sermon delivered on Trinity 4B, Sunday, June 27, 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: 2 Samuel 1.1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8.7-15; St. Mark 5.21-43.

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

We hold our quarterly healing service today. Most of you will come forward for us to anoint you with healing oil, lay our hands on you, and pray for you according to your needs/requests. Some of you will find immediate healing and relief. Others of you will not. What are we to make of that? Are the ones who have prayers answered like the woman of great faith in our gospel story today? Do those whose prayers remain ostensibly unanswered lack sufficient faith? These are vexing questions and deserve our attention. This is what I want us to look at this morning.

Out of the depths, O Lord, I cry to you! If you have lived long enough you can relate to the opening line of the psalmist from our psalm lesson this morning. Life can weigh us down to the point where we feel like we are drowning. Some of our parish family are struggling with chronic illness and devastating loss, this despite their fervent prayers for healing/recovery. It’s heartbreaking to watch. We all know others who cry out for God’s healing power or relief from a host of evil maladies that weigh them down terribly and yet apparently find no relief. On the other hand, the Lord recently granted what was effectively a healing miracle to a woman for whom our intercessors have been praying. Her doctors were convinced she had pancreatic cancer, a death sentence as we all know. But there were fervent prayers asking for healing and when the tests came back, it was discovered she had lymphoma, which while still cancer is highly treatable with a fairly good prognosis. The doctors were stunned. Welcome to the challenge of living in a good world cursed by God over human sin and rebellion. We experience incredible beauty of all kinds living alongside incredible ugliness of all kinds, and it can make us crazy. Out of the depths, O Lord, I cry to you! Indeed.

And this dynamic, along with the questions it raises, is not new or unique to our day. We see it in our gospel lesson this morning. St. Mark sandwiches two stories of healing, faith, and fear together for our edification. What is he trying to tell us? Surely the woman with the chronic bleeding problem had prayed to God for healing and help. She had suffered under many doctors and found no relief or healing. We all know or have heard of folks who struggle likewise today despite our spectacular medical advancements and knowledge that often produce phenomenal results. It is not a stretch of the imagination to think this poor woman had prayed Psalm 130 regularly as part of her entreaties to the Lord. Not only was her bleeding a medical problem, it was also a social problem because it rendered her unclean and she was not supposed to even be there in the crowd with the others. Yet there she was, trembling in fear over the possibility that Jesus and/or the crowds would turn on her because of her unclean condition. 

Then there was the leader of a local synagogue whose daughter was desperately ill to the point of death. Jairus risked scorn and humiliation reaching out to this itinerant teacher who had on more than one occasion come into conflict with Jairus’ counterparts over matters of faith and practice. Yet here he was, desperate for our Lord to come and save his daughter. He too had likely prayed Psalm 130 in desperation before reaching out to Christ for help. 

So what is St. Mark trying to tell us in these gripping stories of faith, fear, and healing? We start with the woman. Here we see a person of great faith. She was convinced that if she could just touch Jesus’ clothing, she would be healed. Indeed, our Lord confirmed that her great faith had healed her once she did touch his clothes. So is St. Mark telling us that healing depends on faith? After all, we’ve all heard a version of this claim before. Doesn’t this scene prove that it’s true? Not so fast my jumping-to-wrong-conclusions friends! While Christ did tell the woman that her faith had healed her, it was clearly his power that had caused the healing. Notice the remarkable statement Jesus made before he told her that her faith had made her well. As soon as she touched him, Christ felt power go out from him and he said so. It was his healing power, aided but not dependent on the woman’s great faith, that had caused her to be healed. Furthermore, the woman’s faith wasn’t perfect. After all she approached Jesus from behind because she was afraid. But she was also desperate and her faith overcame her fear. Sound familiar? So let none of us hold the mistaken idea that we are healed (or not healed) based on the amount of faith we have. That’s bad theology, my beloved, because it puts the focus on us and our powerlessness, instead of the Lord and his power. Also in this poignant scene of healing, faith, and fear, St. Mark surely wants us to see that even with all of life’s pressures, even when it feels like we are about to drown in the sea of life with all of its brokenness, sickness, suffering, and sorrow, we can approach Jesus and he will make room for us because of his great love for us. Christ reflects his Father’s huge heart for his wayward children.

But what if healing doesn’t come, at least in the manner we ask or according to our timetable and expectations? Does that mean Christ rejects us? Hardly, as the story of Jairus’ daughter attests. As with the bleeding woman, St. Mark paints a picture of fear and faith. As we have seen, Jairus was desperate in approaching Jesus. And then the awful news came: your 12 year old daughter is dead. Don’t trouble the teacher anymore. But Jesus isn’t just any teacher. He is the Son of God, God become human, who entered our world to heal it and us from the ravages of our sin and rebellion and the Evil unleashed by it. And so our Lord told Jairus not to be afraid, just as he had told the woman. Then with intimate details that surely indicate an eye-witness recounting, our Lord raised the dead girl back to life, pointing us to Christ’s resurrection and our own one day. As St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans, those who are baptized into Christ share in his death and resurrection (Rom 6.3-5). In this story, we see a foretaste of that reality. 

So what are we to take from all this? How do these stories help us grapple with the reality that sometimes God does not answer our prayers for healing in the manner we ask or expect? Let us start by acknowledging that more often than not, God does answer our prayers for healing. Think about the times in your life God has healed you from illnesses of all kinds. If you are hard pressed to come up with personal examples, ask any of our intercessors—Jeanne, Julie, Lisa, Tucker, myself—and we will give you lots of examples of God’s healing in answer to fervent prayers. Or ask Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Nigeria, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and now is free of it as a result of many fervent prayers. We dare not deny this reality and focus on what God apparently doesn’t  do for us. 

But let us also acknowledge there is a mystery and an enigma to healing (or lack thereof) because we all know of instances where our heartfelt prayers have apparently gone unanswered. Because we are not God with God’s eternal perspective and omniscient knowledge, we must be very reticent about offering “answers” to our “why” questions. Let us have the humility to acknowledge that we will never know all the reasons this side of the grave, if ever. We live in a fallen world ravaged by human sin and the evil it unleashes. As the psalmist acknowledges in today’s lesson, there is a relationship between illness and sin. If God held us accountable for all our sins, who could survive? The answer, of course, is no one! Part of what we therefore must understand is that God shows his great love and mercy in healing any of us to begin with because none of us deserve that.

We know this is true because we have seen the cross of Jesus Christ and we believe that Christ died for our sins so that we could finally be healed or saved, i.e., we know the Father’s great love for us. Did you know that the Greek NT word for healing and salvation, soz?, is the same word? There’s a reason for that because unless Christ saves us by his precious blood, we have no hope of ever being ultimately healed. So let us acknowledge as God’s beloved children that there is a mystery to unanswered prayer. When we are confronted with that, let us turn in faith and remember God’s mighty acts of power in our lives and the lives of his people. For Christians, the first thing we should always ponder is Christ’s death and resurrection because they testify about God’s great love, mercy, and grace toward us. They literally witness to our future. As St. Mark has shown us, faith is an important conduit through which God’s power works for our benefit. Remembering God’s mighty acts of healing and rescue remind us that God has the power to heal us and loves us enough to have acted decisively on our behalf when he became human to die and be raised again. When the floodwaters of life and/or illness surround us we must be intentional in our remembering and turn to each other to be reminded of this truth. God will surely use our efforts to sustain us. 

And let’s also be clear about the nature of healing so that we can keep things in their proper perspective. What happened to the bleeding woman and Jairus’ daughter after Christ healed them? What happened to Lazarus after Christ raised him from the dead? What will happen to us if Christ chooses to answer our prayers and heal us completely? They died and so will we barring Christ’s return before our mortal death. My point is that all physical healing this side of the grave is temporary at best. As the story of Jairus’ daughter reminds us, our full and complete healing will not occur until Christ returns to raise us from the dead and bring in God’s new creation in full. Until then, all healing is only temporary. This is not to suggest that we shouldn’t desire to be healed or mourn when our prayers for healing apparently go unanswered. What I am suggesting is that we need to keep healing in its eternal perspective and remember that we will not be healed in full until we have our new resurrection bodies. In the meantime, we must be strong in our faith and learn to trust Christ in any and every circumstance because only Christ has the power of life and true healing. 

So how do we keep our faith strong? As we’ve seen, we need to remember God’s love and mighty works on behalf of his people, on your behalf and mine. We do this best when we learn the story of God’s rescue plan for us and God’s creation. That means we read our Bible regularly and we talk about those stories regularly. Second, we worship together regularly and come to the Lord’s table each week to feed on his precious body and blood. When we do so, we unite ourselves with the risen Christ in a most powerful way and he can more effectively minister to us. Ideally we should feed on our Lord everyday. When that isn’t possible, we feed on him through reading and study of the Scriptures and through prayer, and we do this individually and together because we are the family of God and families take care of each other. Doing these things also remind us of the nature of God’s character. Many of us have a faulty notion that God hates us and is out to get us. Refusing to answer our prayers for healing is one way for God to punish us. But there is no way we can read today’s gospel lesson and hold that mistaken notion. God loves us so much that he became human to die for us to deal with our sin that separates us from him. In other words, God became human to heal us. An abusive Father would not do that, my beloved, and any such thinking frankly comes from our darkened minds and/or the Evil One himself. So let us praise God when our prayers for healing are answered, always having a grateful and humble heart. And let us join together to mourn for and support each other as David did for Saul and Jonathon in our OT lesson when our prayers apparently go unanswered. God will honor our efforts to persevere in faith together because our faith opens us up to his healing and saving Presence. This in turn helps us trust in God, even in the face of unanswered prayer. We worship and love a God who has rescued us from the ultimate illness of Death. Let us learn to trust his love, goodness, and power completely, even when we don’t understand it or observe it in action in ways we can comprehend. He will never let us down or abandon us. How do I know this? How can you know this? Because Jesus Christ is raised from the dead. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

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

Father Philip Sang: 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.