The Surprising Power of God

Sermon delivered on Trinity 8B, Sunday, July 25, 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 11.1-25; Psalm 14; Ephesians 3.14-21; St. John 6.1-21.

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

In our epistle lesson, St. Paul prays for the power of God in the lives of his people, of you and me. He ends by making the bold declaration that God’s power working in us is “abundantly more than we can ask or imagine.” What does the apostle have in mind when he tells us this? How are we to read this in light of David’s folly in our OT lesson? This is what I want us to look at.

If you have been a Christian for any length of time you will certainly know it is not an easy thing to be a Christ follower and lover. As the psalmist reminds us starkly in our lesson, there is no one who does good, not a single person. It seems that we all have inherited Adam’s sin-sickness, a sickness that distorts and corrupts God’s image in us and makes us think, say, and do all kinds of things that dehumanize us. This, of course, is not God’s original intention for us as his image-bearers and our sin-sickness disqualifies us to rule God’s world on God’s behalf. Yet hard as we try—and try we do being the proud rebellious creatures we are—none of us have the ability to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps so that we can be the humans God created us to be. What to do?

Enter the power of God. When St. Paul prays for God’s power to be with us, he has in mind first and and foremost God’s ability to overcome our sin-sickness on our behalf. And even a superficial reading/knowledge of Scripture reminds us that God does indeed have the power to deliver us from our incurable sin-sickness. He is the God who created this vast universe by speaking it into existence out of nothing. He is the God who has the power to raise the dead as he did with Jesus that first Easter morning. He has the power the free his people from their bondage to slavery as he demonstrated when he brought his people Israel out of Egypt at Passover. And as our gospel lesson testifies, God become human has the power to feed the masses and rule over the storms of creation and life. Many of us have not experienced God’s power in such a spectacular manner, but some of us have, experiencing mighty acts of healing and other acts of God’s transformative power. 

And this power is surely behind St. Paul’s prayer for Christ’s body, the Church, in our epistle lesson. Earlier he made the astonishing claim that God’s purpose for his Church, for you and me, is to demonstrate God’s wisdom and purposes for healing and redemption to the dark powers and their human agents. Imagine that! We as Christ’s people are called to show the world and the powers who have usurped God’s rightful rule—an enigmatic mystery in its own right; why did God allow that?—how to be human and live according to God’s good will and created order! Clearly we cannot do that on our own because we are hopelessly sin-sick. Most of us can’t even manage to follow through on our new year’s resolutions for more than a month let alone live faithfully and obediently as God’s image-bearers! So how do we become God’s healed and redeemed people? Answer: by the grace and power of God. But how does that work? It works to the extent that we can bind ourselves to Christ so that we understand the nature of God’s power in us. When God empowers us to be his people, he does not empower us to lord it over others or to be mighty conquerors. Doing so would only help us impose our selfish desires on others—we do that quite nicely on our own, thank you very much—and satisfy our fallen human nature. No, the kind of power about which St. Paul speaks is the power to forgive, the power to be patient, the power to love, the power to be compassionate, the power to be humble, and the power to do good, to name just a few. It is the power to take up our cross and follow Christ, especially in the face of the world’s scorn and hatred of Christ and us, to suffer for his name’s sake so that he can use us to help bring in his kingdom on earth as in heaven. It is the type of power that doesn’t always bring immediate results; in fact, it is power that often looks like failure in the eyes of the world. And because it does not often meet our expectations of what real power looks like—the ability to impose our will and views on others, to stop at nothing in an effort to obtain security and wealth and status—we often mistake God’s power for weakness and timidity, and we treat it scornfully.

This is nothing new. Ask the surviving disciples on that Good Friday night if Christ was truly God’s Messiah and/or if they had seen God’s mighty power at work, and they would have looked at us like we had three heads. It took the power of the Resurrection for them to see that in the cross—a worldly sign of humanity’s ability to degrade, to torture, to humiliate—God’s power to forgive all our sins was at work and accomplishing God’s purposes. Nobody in Christ’s day expected a crucified God and many in our own day join with them despite the fact that we have 20-20 hindsight now. 

Yet it is only in Christ’s death and resurrection that we find forgiveness of our sins and the table set to have real reconciliation with God our Father, something the world has not seen since before the Fall and until God arrived on the scene in the person of Jesus to deal with our sins and hostility toward him. At just the right time, St. Paul tells us in Romans, Christ died for us, even though we were still God’s enemies. Before Christ and bereft of his Holy Spirit, none of us would even consider dying for our mortal enemies, and even with the Holy Spirit living in us and making Christ known and available to us, many of us still struggle with the notion of loving our enemies, let alone dying to save them because we are so profoundly broken. But this is exactly what we are called to do, and as St. Paul promises in our epistle lesson we do indeed have Christ’s power and presence in us in and through the presence of the Holy Spirit to transform us into the people God created us to be so that we will one day be fit to rule God’s new world, the new heavens and earth. 

So if this is true, why do we have stories like David and Bathsheba in our OT lesson? After all, here we have King David, the man after God’s own heart, who was clearly endowed with God’s Holy Spirit even before the Spirit was made available to all God’s people at and after Pentecost, involved in one of the most sordid stories in all the Bible. In this story, we see God’s man commit adultery and then murder to cover it up to save his own skin (adultery was a capital offense in Israel, even for a king). And it was a murder committed with great cynicism and malice aforethought to boot. Not only did David violate the commandments to not commit murder, he also violated three others: he coveted his neighbor’s wife, stole her from her husband, and lied about it. Five out of ten is an impressive batting average, even for the worst sinners among us, let alone God’s anointed king. How could this have happened? In David’s case, there were some unfortunate circumstances involved, but we all have endured those before, often without sin. No, the bottom line is that David let his sin-sickness control him and the results were catastrophic, just as all sin is. In great understatement the writer ends this sordid story by observing succinctly that the thing David did displeased God. You don’t need reality TV. Just pick up your Bible and read it if you want to see humans at their worst. But unlike reality TV, you will actually profit from reading and pondering these stories.

All this can be terribly unnerving. Are God’s promises false? Was St. Paul delusional in praying his prayer found in our epistle lesson? Some would say yes. After all, we all know stories of religious leaders missing the mark and falling into catastrophic and grievous sin. You all have to put up with me on a regular basis, surely proof positive that God’s promises have failed! But for those of us who pay attention to these things, for every failure we can count many more successes in our lives and the lives of those we love. Think of serious illnesses that were healed. Think of hopelessly damaged relationships restored. Think on the fact that all of us here are reconciled to God while none of us deserve a lick of it! No, the power of God is real, even if at times it can certainly be unpredictable and enigmatic. But we must keep our eyes focused on Christ our prize, for only in and through his power do we have any hope of overcoming our sin-sickness and enjoying eternal life with him now and forever. In this world there will always be heartache and failure; after all, we live in a cursed world ravaged by human sin that naturally separates us and keeps us alienated to God our Father, the Source and Author of all life and health. Thus we suffer and fail. But there is also victory and healing and redemption in this world and I would boldly suggest that our little parish is a microcosm of God’s victory on our behalf in and through Christ, warts and all. Despite the fact that we are losers and ragamuffins, we are a family who love each other and support each other, despite the times when we irritate each other. We are usually patient and kind and (hopefully) forgiving of each other. We care for each other and enjoy sweet fellowship despite our differences. These are all signs of God’s power at work in us because none of this is possible without Christ in our midst and as our Center. And if you think otherwise, you are the one who is delusional, not St. Paul.

I close with a story from The Way of a Pilgrim that illustrates how Christ typically works in his people. 

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 self-control 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.’

“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.”

Notice first how Christ used 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 had 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. 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 because God respects us and our relational integrity. So if you are struggling with your faith, do the things that will cultivate Christ’s power. I beseech you, my beloved. Give yourself completely to Christ if you have not done so already. Please. Don’t hold back. Don’t be afraid. He loves you and he will not ultimately fail you because he is the only one who remains faithful to the Father! Cultivate his presence and power. He is our only hope to rescue and heal us from our sin-sickness! Read Scripture regularly. Partake in the Holy Eucharist as St. John exhorts us to do in our gospel lesson (listen if you have ears). Enjoy sweet fellowship with God’s faithful people, remembering our Lord’s promise to his fearful disciples in the midst of a life-threatening storm. Don’t be afraid, it is me, and only I have the power to save you. I know your lives are no less stormy. Trust in my power, and if you begin to doubt that power, meditate on my death and resurrection because in these events are your only hope and future. Doing so will remind you of the surprising and sometimes unpredictable power of God. Now 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: Bringing Down the Walls

Sermon delivered on Trinity 7B, Sunday, July 18, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: 2 Samuel 7.1-14a; Psalm 89.20-37; Ephesians 2.11-22; St. Mark 6.30-34, 53-56.

Father Jonathon Wylie: How to Be Courageous

Sermon delivered on Trinity 6B, Sunday, July 11, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: 2 Samuel 6.1-5, 12b-19; Psalm 24; Ephesians 1.3-14; St. Mark 6.14-29.

Father Santosh Madanu: Who Can Save You When You Reject the One Who Saves—Jesus the Messiah?

Sermon delivered on Trinity 5B, Sunday, July 4, 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 5.1-5, 9-10; Psalm 48; 2 Corinthians 12.2-10; St. Mark 6.1-13.

Prayer: Lord Jesus we pray that this world may see you with spiritual eye to recognize you as the son of God

HAPPY AND BLESSED INDEPENDENCE DAY

Independence Day, the Fourth (4th) of July is a public holiday in the United States of America that commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which declared the original colonies to be free from British rule.

Freedom is an inalienable gift of God to His children.  All the fundamental rights would make the person for what they are.  The Bill of Rights protects freedom of life

  • Right to self-determination. Right to liberty.  Right to due process of law. Right to freedom of movement. Right to privacy. Right to freedom of thought. Right to freedom of religion. Right to freedom of expression.
  • The freedom of will and conscience helps us to have the liberty and justice to life the godly life with kingdom virtues and values.
  • We thank God the almighty that we are able to enjoy these fundamental freedoms in the United Nations.  We all know there are many even today in many countries have no fundamental freedoms.  They are still treated as slaves in many ways.

Let us reflect the gospel passage: Mark 6:1-13

Jesus was rejected by His own people from his own town – Nazareth.  Because they see him with human eyes rather than eye of faith

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”   
Isaiah 61:1-2

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He said to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:14-21) The promise and prophecy are being fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is very profound statement. Jesus returns to the town where he grew up and starts a public ministry. One Saturday, he goes to the front of the synagogue – the Jewish house of worship where he spent many Saturdays as a kid — and reads a famous Messianic passage from the Prophet Isaiah. He finishes the prophecy – one that Jewish people had read for nearly 700 years – by identifying himself as the one spoken of by Isaiah.

Jesus rejected in his hometown of Nazareth – The Result

Jesus goes off and gets baptized by John at the river, runs off to the mountains for 40 days, and comes back revealing himself as the long-awaited Messiah to his hometown congregation.

Needless to say, the people were a bit skeptical. Then, Jesus calls them out and challenges their doubt. He points to past Hebrew generations that also doubted the scriptures and the prophets. Ultimately, the townspeople get angry and even try to kill Jesus by throwing him off a local hillside.

WHAT A TRAGIDY! Rejecting Jesus the true messiah

Who all those rejected Jesus?

His relatives and friends and his own town members rejecting Jesus- the anointed messiah.

The Jews, Pharisees, Scribes and teachers of the Law.

Today Hindus, Muslims, Sikh, Jainism, Buddhism and Gnostics and so on.

Can anyone have a being and have a hope of redemption without Jesus of Nazareth?

No one can be saved without the grace of Jesus Christ.

Have you been rejected by your own family, friends, relatives and community? If yes.  Then know this even Jesus is rejected and suffered the pain of rejection. Jesus understands our pain and loss of love from our own community. Many of the prophets were rejected by their own people. St Paul was rejected and his message was rejected.  He was in physical pain till his death. But he kept on going to place to place with the gospel of grace and power of Christ Jesus.

St. Paul in today’s 2 Cor 12: 7-9 speaking about a thorn in the flesh.  We all suffer physically, mentally and emotionally for various reasons, especially for being a missionary for the kingdom of God.  This is the promise of the Lord “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”.

Sending Out the Twelve:

The vision of Jesus Christ – Mission of Jesus Christ in sending the twelve disciples

What should be the character of a disciple of the Lord Jesus?

FRIENDSHIP GROWS OUT OF DISCIPLESHIP Disciples have to go through training, but once we graduate from discipleship, we become friends of the Lord. The Lord said to His disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” (Jn 15:12-15) More than just friends, we are called to be the relatives of our Lord, for He said, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mt 12:49f) When we are friends of God, there is nothing we will not do for the Lord, and there is nothing the Lord will not do for us! Faith in God depends on how intimate we are with Him.

“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”

Work of God Jesus is the saving grace to the believers.

“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” When Jesus was looking for workers in his harvest field, whom did he choose? Certainly not from the religious class! No learned Pharisees and stoic Sadducees, and no expert Scripture scribes! Rather he chose them from among his ordinary disciples. And there’s a good reason Jesus did that. They had a certain quality that he couldn’t find among the religious people. His disciples had a deep desire and willingness to learn from him. A “disciple” basically means a “follower” and a“learner”. 

It was a whole new teaching and radical teaching the Lord Jesus

And God gives these the strength to withstand the world and its temptations as they continue to live with Jesus and learn from him how to honor and glorify God. So Jesus equipped them with what was necessary in doing the work of God. How then did he equip them, and with what? Read verse 1 “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.   Spiritual authority! The world is sick with the plague of sin which brings about diseased hearts and minds, and unholy possessions from evil spirits. Human technologies cannot cure the hearts and souls of people. Only God can heal them. It takes God’s authority to do the job! 

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) Those who are called for kingdom work need to believe this otherwise their labor is in vain.

What’s an apostle? He is “one who is sent out”.  Jesus at this point began to recognize his disciples as apostles! In other words, those who are sent out— men with a mission from God. Christ’s ambassadors to all people 

Now let’s consider the principles of gospel work which Jesus gave his apostles when he sent them out into the harvest field.

First, be a witness to others. (5-6) look at verses 5b and 6. “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” Jesus taught his disciples something very precious— who to witness to first. They need to first witness to the closest people. In other words, evangelism should first start where you are. 

Second, declare the message of the kingdom of God. (7) Read verse 7. “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’” That’s what was on Jesus’ heart! The kingdom of God! Jesus told them to declare the message of the kingdom of heaven. It was and still is the message of prime importance. It’s the message of hope. 

Third, “Heal the sick.” (8) Read verse 8. “Heal the sick, raise the dead, and cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.Freely you have received, freely give.” This is the character of Jesus’ ministry! It’s a ministry of preaching and of healing. It’s a ministry of compassion and sacrifice. 

Fourth, depend only on God, and nothing else. (9-10) Read verse 9. “Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts.” A servant of the kingdom should always depend on God and on nothing else. 

Fifth, establish one person. (11-15) Read verse 11. “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave.” Jesus told his disciples to look for one worthy person and stay with them. Who’s a worthy person? A worthy person is any person genuinely searching for the truth of God.

Sixth, expect persecution. (16-31) everywhere there is a work of God going on, there is also always Satan there doing his own work. So Jesus prepared his apostles to expect persecutions— under God’s sovereignty. 

Needed the good-committed missionaries.  One missionary can make a difference in the lives of many thousands.  Example of a missionary in North India namely Israel baptized about 30 thousand Hindus as they got converted to the Lord and preached to millions of people with his simple and humble life of Christ. An ordinary professor of the college became missionary with his family lived poor life- with minimum expense about $150 per month even today.

Seventh, acknowledge the name of Jesus. (32-42) Read verse 32. “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” Jesus wants his disciples to acknowledge him before the whole world. That’s the same as a confession of faith in Jesus.  Therefore, to acknowledge his name is not a private matter. 

In verses 34-42 Jesus tells all of us something very true about the Christian life! It’s a spiritual battle that requires loyalty to Jesus and to the gospel. Christian life is costly. And we need to bear that cost— willingly. You should first accept the authority he gives you serve his kingdom. 

I would like to share a story:

Once a group of blind people went to beautiful park and asked the photographer to take their photos individually and in group in different areas of park.  People in the park wondering why these blind people are taking their photos when they cannot see themselves.  

What do you think? Then one in the park asked them why you want your pictures taken? Then one of them said I go to the person who can see and ask him about my continence, color of my dress and about the garden and so on. And I get to know everything.  In the same way we need to go to the Lord Jesus to know about the heaven and paradise that St. Paul speaking in his letter about the paradise.

Jesus says John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

Revelation 2:7 to the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

  • Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven ( 2 Kings 2:11)
  • Ezekiel saw the heaven opened and had seen the vision of God. ( Ezekiel 1:1)

Therefore dear brothers and sisters in Christ we are all assured of resurrection in Christ Jesus.  Let us believe it even when we face the real struggles of sickness and death of our beloved ones. 

Prayer: Lord Jesus may we receive your grace and power in our weaknesses, sicknesses and struggles of life. Spirit of God bless us to be willing to go where ever your Spirit leads us to do the evangelization and to be good harvesters, in Jesus name we pray. Amen.

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.

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

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

Father Philip Sang: Abide In Christ’s Love: What That Looks Like

Sermon delivered on Easter 6B, Sunday, May 9, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Acts 10.44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5.1-6; John 15.9-17.