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.

Dying and Rising with Christ: Why Your Baptism Matters

Sermon delivered on Easter 5B, Sunday, May 2, 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 text: Acts 8.26-40; Psalm 118.19-24; Romans 6.3-11; St. Matthew 28.16-20.

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

Today is a huge day in the life of our parish family. Not only do we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine’s and receive and confirm several new family members, we will baptize our newest baby terrorist and beloved in Christ, Maggie May, into his family, (sorry Sweet Baby James, there’s a new kid in town) and I want to direct my sermon primarily to her. Yes, yes, I know she is only almost three and I regularly confuse you adults when I preach. But any child who tells her parents at that age that she needs to be baptized knows the Lord, and probably better than most of us. So I will trust the Lord, along with her parents, godparents, and the rest of you, to compensate for my, um, awesomeness to bring about needed understanding in the years to come. I’ll try to make it so easy to understand that even a bishop will get it! Of course the rest of you ragamuffins are welcome to soak up the great wisdom I impart along the way. Now that I have insulted everyone here, I can proceed with the sermon forthwith.

Maggie May, your parents have made the wisest and best decision of your young life. Ever. On your behalf, they have declared that you will reject what St. Paul called the first Adam—the old person living in you despite your young age—and like new clothes, put on the second Adam, Jesus Christ himself. But what does that mean? It means that the power of Sin will not control you, that you will choose life over death and will not want to live your life in ways that demonstrate you don’t like God by acting in ways that are contrary to his will for you as his image-bearing creature. Instead, your parents are declaring for you that you will choose to follow Christ and be where he is because you believe him to be God become human, the only true reality and Source of life, and that you want to live with God forever, starting right now. In biblical terms we call this repentance: where you will choose to turn from a life lived for yourself to a life lived for God. You will choose to kill off in you all that makes you God’s enemy, or as St. Paul puts it, you will crucify your sinful nature (a lifelong practice), but you will realize you cannot do this in your own power or strength. When you are baptized your parents are declaring for you that you will realize you must rely on the power of God working in your life in and through the Holy Spirit to help you do all this so that you can live as a fully human being and that your life orientation will point to something (or more precisely Someone) greater than yourself. They are also declaring for you that you will realize this is a free gift from God despite your unworthiness to receive it, but receive it you will because it pleases God the Father to give it to you out of his great love for you. That’s what dying and rising with Christ means. It means you know Jesus and are reconnected to your Source of life. It means you understand that only in Christ’s power can you overcome Death. I am fully confident that all this will happen as you come of age because you know Jesus.

But here’s the thing. If you are like me, you will also at times find what St. Paul says to be a real head scratcher. Perhaps you will want to say to him with me, “St. Paul, are you crazy? I still do things that don’t please God. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. How can you say I’ve died to sin?” To which St. Paul would reply, “It’s not about you Maggie May, it’s about the power of God at work in you.” That’s the key. The power of God working in you, invisible to our senses but there nonetheless. And I know you understand this at some level already, even at your tender age.

St. Paul knew very well that being united with Christ does not make one a perfect person. But that is not what St. Paul is talking about. He is echoing what he wrote to the Colossians when he said that “[The Father] has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness [where we are separated from God and without real life] and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom [from the power of Sin] and forgave our sins” (Col 1.13-14). This is the power of God at work in us to rescue us from sin and death and bring us into the kingdom of his promised new creation that one day will come in full at Christ’s return. God did this for us out of his great love for us. We did nothing to deserve this gift nor can we earn it. In our own right we are hopelessly broken, unworthy and incapable of living as God’s true image-bearers. This is what the power of Sin has done to us and unfortunately you will understand this all too well one day. But God loves us too much to let us go the way of death that never ends and so God has acted decisively in Christ to break Sin’s power over us on the cross and transfer us into his new world via Christ’s resurrection. This is what God’s grace and power look like; and your baptism signals, in part, your acceptance of that grace and power, even you don’t fully understand it. We can’t earn God’s grace but it is ours for the taking because of the power and love of God. And what God wants, God gets; and nothing, not even the power of Sin or the dark powers, can overcome God’s power made known and available to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. It’s a done deal, even if it may not always feel like that to us. 

But Christ’s death and resurrection were not feelings. They were and are the real events that made known supremely the power of God to intervene in our lives on our behalf to rescue us from ourselves, our foolishness, our folly, and our slavery to the power of Sin and Death. We don’t create a new reality; rather we believe the reality exists. Christ has died for us and been raised from the dead to proclaim God’s victory over Sin and Death, and when we are united with Christ in a living relationship with him at our baptism, St. Paul promises in our epistle lesson that we too share in Christ’s reality, whether it feels like we do or not. Again, notice nothing is required of us except an informed faith. In other words, we look at the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection and know it to be true so that we learn to trust the promise that has not yet been fulfilled in us to also be true. 

How does this all happen? St. Paul doesn’t tell us how, only that it does happen beginning with our baptism. When we are baptized we share in Christ’s death and are buried with him so that Sin’s power over us is broken (not to be confused with living a sin-free life, something that is not mortally possible because as St. Paul reminds us in verses 6-7, we are not totally free from sin until death). We reject sin and can no longer live like we hate God because we have been transferred into a new reality, God’s new world that started when God raised Christ from the dead. So in our baptism we begin our new life with Christ (cf. 2 Cor 5.17), flawed as that will look at times. You have been given a great gift in the death and resurrection of Christ and will be joined together with him in a new and different way at your baptism. And where Christ is, there you will be with him. If this isn’t Good News, I don’t know what is. And how do I know all that I have told you is true? Because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, Maggie May, and I know you know his risen Presence! Alleluia!

So you have died with Christ and are raised with him, even at your ripe young age! You have been delivered from the dark empire of slavery to the empire of freedom and life and light, the Father’s kingdom. Now what? Well, for starters it means you no longer need to be afraid as you grow older. You have peace with God, real peace, a peace that was terribly costly to God, and you also have life that cannot be taken from you. Sure your mortal body will die, and you’ll understand what that means when you grow older, but that’s nothing more than a transition until the Lord returns and raises you from the dead and gives you a new body to live in his new world. As a baptized Christian you have no reason to fear death because you know Christ is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11.25) and you know that where he is, there you will be with him by virtue of your baptism that signals his great love for you and his power to rescue you from Sin and Death! It means you will reject living your life in ways that tell God you don’t want anything to do with him. It means you will reject false realities and will be willing to speak out boldly against them. It means you will be willing to love even the most unloveable people (and unfortunately you will come to know your fair share of them), starting with yourself. It means you will be willing to speak out against injustices of all kinds. It means you will have compassion for people, realizing they are without a Good Shepherd who will love and heal them just like he is loving and healing you, and so you will be willing to share your baptismal faith with them. There’s more to this reality, but certainly not less. 

Your baptism also means you are welcomed into and will agree to become part of the family of God in Christ (the Church), hopefully here at St. Augustine’s, because you understand God created you for relationships and that you cannot live out your Christian faith by yourself because that is how the world, the flesh, and the devil get together to pick Christians off and get them to reject God’s free gift of life won through Christ. The power of God living in you right now is often made known in and through other people, and just as we rely on family to help us when things go bad in our life, so too must you rely on your parish family to help you stay the course. That means you will agree to worship with us, study Scripture with us, feed on our Lord’s body and blood each week to have Christ himself nourish you, weep with us, rejoice with us, and everything in between. I think you already understand this at some level and You’ll grow in your understanding of what this means as you grow older. Your baptism is a tangible reminder that God the Father has claimed you in and through God the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit to make you Christ’s own forever. Like any healthy relationship, Maggie May, God will never force you to love him and gives you the freedom to choose whom you will serve. Today your parents declare for you that you are choosing to serve Life and not Death and all that that entails, even if you don’t fully understand right now. Who among us does? Congratulations, my dear one. I couldn’t be happier for you. Glory to him whose power working in you is infinitely more than you can ask or imagine. Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Alleluia!

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

Why We Need The (Not A) Good Shepherd

Sermon delivered on Easter 4B, Good Shepherd Sunday, April 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: Acts 4.1-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3.16-24; St. John 10.11-18.

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

Today is the fourth Sunday of Eastertide and we are at day 22, almost midway through the 50 days of Easter (how are your new creation celebrations going, BTW? Are you causing anyone to wonder why you are partying so much?). In the Anglican Tradition, we celebrate the fourth Sunday of Easter as Good Shepherd Sunday, where our readings point to Christ as our Good Shepherd. But what does that mean for us as Christians living in an increasingly chaotic 21st century world? This is what I want us to look at this morning. 

So who needs Christ as their Good Shepherd? Well, all of us, frankly, because we live in a world of instant communication that allows us to see with increasing intensity the dark and chaotic world in which we live. Toots and I can barely watch the news anymore and we increasingly stay away from social media because of the ever-growing toxic strand of stories that stream from these various sources. In short, we avoid the news for the sake of our mental health and spiritual, and we’re not alone. As the Christian faith and those who profess and live it come under increasing attack, not to mention the very foundations and traditions of our nation, if we are not careful we can quickly and easily fall into despair. Then of course there are the personal failures, setbacks, losses, anxieties, and other difficulties we all face. Many of us who try to live up to the high calling of the Christian life are all too painfully aware that we miss the mark, sometimes as much as we hit it. Like David in Psalm 51, we know our transgressions and our sin is ever before us. Perhaps a better question might be, where is our Good Shepherd, rather than do we need one! Then there’s the quaint and seemingly outdated term, shepherd, itself. Most of us don’t come from a rural background and even if we do, shepherding seems to be a thing of the past. Why would we need a good shepherd when we live in the 21st century?

But we mustn’t let the historical context of Scripture lull us into false and misleading conclusions. We must remember that it is to the glory of God that he indeed works and is active in the context of human history, meaning that Jesus lived at a particular time and in a particular culture where his listeners would have quickly related to his use of the term shepherd. No, as Scripture consistently proclaims, our God is not some absentee god who is disinterested in this world and our lives. Nor is he a god who focuses exclusively on things “spiritual” as any self-respecting gnostic, past and present, would have us believe. Instead, Scripture proclaims consistently that God our Father is the God of history and our Creator. And as the resurrection of Christ proclaims boldly to us and to the world, creation matters to God and God intends to make all things right again. The risen Christ is our living preview of coming attractions so to speak, testifying to this truth, thanks be to God!

If we keep all this in mind, we are ready to answer the question as to why we need Christ the Good Shepherd. A shepherd is one who looks after those who follow him, in this case human image-bearers, not mindless sheep. This image therefore reminds us that the notion of shepherding by definition applies not to individuals, but to groups (think Christ’s body, the Church). Of course, Jesus leads us and is available to us as individuals. Anybody who knows the risen Lord knows that. But Christ does not call us to live our lives in isolation. He calls us to live together as a family of believers. We are all in this together because we are all subject to the same dark powers and forces of chaos, which at its root is the very nature of sin. Show me sin of any kind and I will show you chaos. Given that we are subject to powers and forces far stronger than we are, forces that have enslaved us and stripped and robbed us of our original human dignity as God’s image-bearing creatures whom God created to rule his good creation on his behalf, we are in constant danger of being undone. Simply put, we are not able on our own to free ourselves from our slavery to that alien and hostile power we call Sin, and if we are unable to free ourselves from its slavery, we all face Death, not only our mortal death, but also the Death that results from being disconnected from God, our very Source of life. This means that we are already dead people walking without God’s help. Take the patient off his life-support systems without a cure and the patient dies. Try to live life in the face of the dark powers and the chaos they impose on our lives and world without the help of someone or something stronger, and we become people who live without hope. And without hope, we all die.

But thanks be to God that we do have someone who is stronger than the forces who hate us and want to destroy us. We have Jesus Christ, crucified, died, and raised from the dead, available to us. Christ is our Beautiful Shepherd (a more accurate description for the Greek word, kalos, than the term “good”), who loves us enough to give up his equality with God to become human and to die for us to break Sin’s power over us, and to bear God’s righteous and just punishment for our sins. This self-giving love for us reflects the heart and glory of God the Father who does not give up on us, irrespective of how badly we manage to screw things up. None of us know all that transpired on Calvary that Good Friday because none of us has the mind of God. Yet we believe that our sins are forgiven and that we have new life starting right now because Christ’s death reconnected us to God our lifeline and promises one day to raise our mortal bodies from the dead to live with him forever. How do I know this? How can I be sure, especially with so many unanswered questions and in the face of so much dysfunction and suffering and alienation and chaos (sin)? Because Jesus Christ is raised from the dead as he tells us he would be in our gospel lesson today. As St. Paul proclaimed in his letter to the Romans, at just the right time, Christ died for us, even while we were still God’s enemies (Romans 5.6-20) so that we could have life once again and be the image-bearing creatures God created us to be as human beings. This is what real shepherding looks like, the only kind that matters, and this is why we have only one real Shepherd because only in Christ do we find forgiveness of sins and salvation. And here we need to spend some time unpacking this extraordinary statement found in our NT lesson. Isn’t it incredibly exclusionary? Well, no it isn’t. 

Why? Because what Ss. Peter and John were proclaiming, along with the early Church, is that only Jesus is God become human and only his saving death can break our slavery to Sin and restore us to our rightful place as God’s image-bearers. In other words, Christianity has a truth that other religions simply do not because only Jesus Christ is raised from the dead. Neither is God’s love closed to anyone. All are invited to put their faith in Jesus Christ and no one is shut out expect through their own stubborn refusal to see and believe the truth that is in Christ. Now of course the history of Christianity is littered with all kinds of folly that has accompanied our proclaimed faith in Christ and all kinds of wickedness that has sadly accompanied real Christian wisdom. But human wickedness and folly do not negate the truth of the claim itself! Jesus Christ is raised from the dead, proving he is who he claimed to be, not to mention the testimony of hundreds of millions of people over time and culture, our little parish being a blessed microcosm of that collective witness! Christ himself tells us this today in rather stark terms, you’ll never know me or that my claims are true if you don’t know the One who sent me, i.e., God. Why? Because the Father and I are one and that kind of deep intimate relationship characterizes the relationship my followers have with me. Confess me as your Lord and live like you believe it, and you will know that my claim to be the only way to the Father is true (John 14.6). As both the psalmist and St. John in his epistle remind us, Christ our Beautiful Shepherd is the basis for our reconciliation with God and our confident trust that he is with us, even at the moment of our mortal death. What more protection and promise do we need, my beloved? That is why only Christ can be our Good Shepherd, because only in Christ do we find forgiveness of sins and the promise of resurrection. No other shepherds will do because no one but Christ can give us life. Pinheads like me who claim the title of pastor (shepherd) by virtue of our office cannot give you life; we can only point you to the One who can and does, and encourage and exhort you to believe the power and the promise, especially in today’s world where it is increasingly viewed with disdain and hostility. Even so, we do not fear nor will we let ourselves be kowtowed into silence if we really do believe that there is no other Name than Christ’s by which we are saved! That is why Christians, and by that I mean those who have a real and lively faith with Christ, have never feared persecution and have actually rejoiced when suffering for Christ’s sake. As Jesus himself reminded us, we shouldn’t fear those who can kill our body but are then powerless to do anything else to us. We should instead fear God who has the power to end our life forever (Matthew 10.28).

I can hear some of you grumbling right now. You have questions. Why does he sweat so much when he preaches and leads worship (A: I am a born sweat hog)? If Christ really is the Good Shepherd, why is my life so blown up right now? C’mon dude. Get real. Well, my skeptical interlocutory friend, here’s the deal. I don’t know why God allows what God allows to go on in his world. Nobody does and if you hear someone claim otherwise, run like crazy from that person! What I can tell you is this. Life is not a grand experimental design. It does not consist of experimental and control groups where we can manipulate variables to determine causation and/or correlation. It just doesn’t work that way. We aren’t God and we aren’t omniscient. We aren’t privy to all to which God is privy. That’s why, for example, I can’t prove in any kind of strict empirical sense that God answers prayer or that God is moving mightily within our parish family by bringing new families in and opening up your generous hearts to enable us to occupy our new premises. I can’t “prove” any of this, but I know it’s true because I know the power of God in Jesus Christ raised from the dead, in my life, in the lives of many of you, and in the life of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church, broken and dysfunctional as she is. It’s called FAITH. And because I know the power of the risen Lord and his presence in and among his people, I don’t feel the need to try to “prove” anything to skeptics with their sneering questions. I’m not copping an attitude here. I simply don’t feel compelled to play by the enemy’s rules or by the rules of scoffers. I know the reality and so, I pray, do you. 

None of this means that we are immune to hurts, heartaches, failures, and brokenness as a parish. We know this all too well. Wendy just lost her dad to congestive heart failure. Chris recently lost his brother to the wicked disease of cancer. Doug is still not fully healed, to name just three examples. You all can add your own heartbreaking stories. But mysterious as this all is, it does not negate the reality of Christ’s promise to be our Beautiful Shepherd in life and in death because he is risen from the dead and because we don’t live a life that is built like a cosmic experimental design. There’s much more than meets our senses and Scripture affirms that there is an unseen reality out there of which we are unaware. Think, for example, of Elisha and his young assistant who found themselves seemingly trapped by the Aramean army. The young man fell into despair as a result, thinking that they were about to be utterly undone. But then Elisha prayed for God to open the young man’s eyes and he beheld the unseen forces of God ready to intervene on their behalf to rescue them (2 Ki 6.8-23)! St. John essentially tells us the same thing in our epistle lesson when he reminds us that when we are Christ’s we have the invisible Presence of the Holy Spirit working in us to remind us of God’s great love for us despite the fact that we were at one time God’s enemies. God’s love reminds us that we no longer need to languish over a guilty conscience. Rather we are to repent of that which caused that guilty conscience and ask God’s forgiveness. And because we know the crucified and risen Lord, we know that God gladly answers our prayers. Do you believe this? If you do, let Christ’s shepherding strengthen and encourage you in the dark valleys of your life. And by all means, let us encourage and strengthen each other with this reality when we become aware of of those dark valleys.

All this reminds us why we need Christ our Beautiful Shepherd and what it leads to: changed lives and the power to be a living embodiment of Christ’s love for us and for his world. If we really believe that there is no salvation other than in the Name of Christ, and if we really believe God does truly love us despite our warts, sometimes quite sizable, then we must live and proclaim our faith to others because having Christ as our Good Shepherd really is a matter of life and death. It means, in other words, we put our faith into action, starting with our families and our extended parish family. When we see others in need we act on their behalf, having generous hearts that imitate our Savior. It means we give our time, talents, and money to help our families and those around us who desperately need to both survive and to hear and see the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed and lived out faithfully. It means we are to embody the self-giving love Christ has for us to others in the context of our daily lives and communities. And here I want to offer counsel to you because many, if not most, Christians misunderstand what self-giving love looks like. To embody the self-giving love of Christ doesn’t mean we become punching bags of all sorts to others. Jesus Christ did not love us and die for us to enable us to continue in our (self-)destructive behavior. He died for us so that we might learn to live and love like he loves us and the Father loves him. He died for us so that we might be truly healed and find wholeness and peace. Remember this as you attempt to love others. Becoming their verbal, emotional, or physical punching bag or enabling their destructive behaviors is not loving them. It is actually participating in their sin and this is never the loving thing to do. We sometimes are confronted with difficult choices when dealing with others. That is when we go to Scripture and pray to the Lord for guidance and wisdom. And we learn to trust each other enough to seek and receive their godly guidance. We can do so with confidence, a confidence not rooted in ourselves or others, but because we know the One who is our Beautiful Shepherd and who promises to be with us, individually and together, in any and every circumstance because of his great love for us. This is Jesus Christ, crucified, raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven to rule until he returns again to finish his saving work on our behalf. This is the Shepherd we desperately need and the One on whom we can count and to whom we can give our wholehearted love, loyalty, trust, and obedience because only in him is forgiveness and life. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever. Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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

Father Jonathon Wylie: He Is Alive and We Are Witnesses

Sermon delivered on Easter 3B, Sunday, April 18, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Wylie gets all whiny and pouty when he has to submit a written manuscript of his sermon (he’s a PhD dontcha know). We don’t want that, so click here to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon.

Lectionary texts: Acts 3.12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3.1-7; St. Luke 24.36b-48.

Father Santosh Madanu: Evidence of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection and Resurrected Life

Sermon delivered on B, Sunday, , 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 4.32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1.1-2.2; St John 20.19-31.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus you are the son of Living God. You are the messiah.  That is why you only can say these words. Revelation: 1: 17-18 “Fear Not; I am the First and the Last, And the Living one. I Died and behold I am Alive for ever And I have the Keys of Death (grave) and Hades. Amen.”  Bless the hearts of St. Augustine family to an encounter with you in order to have resurrection life.  In Jesus name I pray .Amen.

What is the difference between Complete and finished?

If you find the right partner /spouse you are complete.  And if you find the wrong one you are finished.  And if you are wrong and have the wrong partner, you are completely finished.

 Let us reflect the Evidences of Jesus Christ Resurrection:

1.  Eye Witnesses – Who saw Jesus after the resurrection?

 The first one to see Jesus after His resurrection was Mary Magdalene, and Mary and Salome  who were with Mary Magdalene,  ( Mark 16:9 ). Matt 28:9; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:15-18; John 20:14; 1 Cor 15:3-5 The three women, Matthew 28:9, “And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 Saul-Paul of Tarsus reported the resurrected Jesus had appeared to Peter – Cephas, then the 12 disciples, then more than 500 brethren most of whom who were still alive and could be questioned, Jesus appeared to James (skeptic) and finally to Paul himself (a Pharisee and a man who persecuted Christians until he had a face-to-face encounter with the resurrected Jesus)

Who felt Jesus real presence after the resurrection? Who touched Resurrected Jesus?

All the faithful followers beginning with the Apostle,   saw resurrected Jesus and felt His  breath of Holy Spirit.

2.  The truthfulness of the word of God

Acts 2: 22-30  “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him …but God raised Him from the dead.

1cor 15: if Christ has not been raised my preaching is in vain and you faith is empty…. You still in sin

Rom 10: 9-10  that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

John 2:   Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days

3.  Why should  all the Apostle die alone except John in a far distant countries, became martyrs for the false belief and what is the gain?

Apostle Thomas had come to south India and proclaimed Christ and was stabbed  to death by the Hindu Brahmins.

4. The Empty Tomb – Pharisees and kings with all the authority could not prove with the dead body of Jesus either in the tomb or in Jerusalem or elsewhere. If they were to found the dead body of Jesus they can falsify the resurrection of Jesus.

5.  The Mission of Preaching of Risen Christ began in Jerusalem to the ends of the world from the day of Pentecost.  There were many good deeds and miracles done by the apostles in the name of risen Jesus and power of the Holy Spirit spread to everyone who believed in the Lord.

6.  The change of Worshiping day from Saturday to Sunday began in the church.  It is because Jesus rose on Sunday. 

7.  The history of mankind began with the birth of Jesus –the son of God. We start AD –Anno Domini. The time, days and years designated from the Birth of Christ Jesus.

8.  The conversion of Saul of Tarsus- the persecutor of the church began to preach the Jews and Gentiles the grace and redemption through the passion and the crucifixion and the power of the resurrection and witnessing the risen Christ. The one who wrote 1/3 of the New Testament.

9. With all the knowledge of science and discoveries, atheist do not even come close to disprove the resurrection even after 2000 years.

10.  The existence of the church that began with Jesus continues even today after thousands of years with all the persecutions and destructions of the churches all over the world.  Whereas all the powerful emperors, dictators, kings, presidents,Priministers and famous scientists and many more cannot be remembered after a century.

11. My own experience believing the Absolute God the Almighty and the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  I feel free from sin once I received   the resurrected life- Born Again – New Life in Jesus Christ.

 `Shalom! ` With God as we are reconciled. Shalom with our neighbors as we learn to love them.

Peace comes with occupation with Christ.

APPLICATION:

Christians can have peace in times of trouble. Fear cripples the Christian faith and life. Those who operate with fear orientation forget about how the sovereignty of God relates to their lives.

The disciples’ world changed at the shocking appearance of Jesus in bodily form. Their suppressing fear turned to joy (Jn 16:22). Jesus offered them “peace,” a harmony of their soul. He puts together all the discord of our lives as well (Jn 16:33). Circumstance does not have to control our lives. Occupation with Christ can allay the troubled heart (1 Pe 1:6-8).

  •  ‘Jesus breathed on them’.  The Holy Spirit empowered all who assembled with the fire of   love to preach and to observe the commands and teachings of Christ. The mission of the Risen Christ is to make the disciple of all the nation.
  • Do I have any sense of ‘being sent’? Good news is first foremost is for me.  I should change myself from bad to good-The change of heart. And sharing the joy in Christ to others. 
  • Can I Witness that believing in the name of Jesus Christ has brought freedom from slavery to sin, salvation to my soul and everlasting peace, joy and the life to me?
  • The Risen Jesus meets his closest friends for the first time after they had all abandoned him in his hour of need. It must have been a moment they were all dreading. Yet his first words, twice over, were, ‘Peace be with you’. No rebuke, no reproach, just ‘Peace!’ And then he showed them his wounds, the unmistakable signs.
  • ‘As the Father sent me, I also send you’. While they were feeling they had failed abysmally as his disciples, he entrusted them with the same mission he had received from the Father: now they knew it was not they who had chosen him, but he had chosen them. Their mission, a mission of bringing forgiveness of sins with true repentance of heart and preach that Jesus is the only the way to heaven.
  • Thomas is an ordinary person, knotted up in his own fears and doubts. Perhaps we all carry something of his DNA? Here we are shown the transforming impact which his personal encounter with Jesus has on him.  We Christians have to have a renewed personal encounter with Jesus. 

‘These are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name’. The final sentence of this text underlines the purpose of the Gospel in general and of the Resurrection narrative in particular: that through faith in Jesus as the Messiah we may have life in His name.

  • Thomas places his hands in the wounds of Jesus, and the experience draws from him the first, ringing affirmation of Christ’s divinity: “My Lord and my God!” Fully human, and fully divine. Eternally human, eternally divine. His human nature is glorified, just as His divinity is humanized. Our human nature will be forever in Him; His divinity dwells within us, and will remain with us even to the consummation of the world.
  • I let Jesus whisper to me, ‘You will be blessed if you decide to believe!’ To believe in him is to give my heart to him,not just my head. It is not too demanding to do this, because he has already given his heart to me.
  •  ‘Sending’ is what God likes to do. Jesus is sent, the Holy Spirit is sent, and we are sent too. Jesus is sent to bring love, light and truth into the world. I too am sent. I am to bring love, light and truth into my little world. I am important to the plans of God. The world will be better if I carry out the  mission of Jesus Christ.
  • Brave, honest Thomas had gone off to grieve on his own, so he missed that meeting with the Lord. I can taste some of his isolation and resentment in his Unless…. I will not believe. I have suffered in this way when I isolated myself from the community of faith. It is when I am stunned by sorrow that I most need the company of friends and the support of faith.
  • Thomas was a modern man, finding faith hard, like many people today. He was let down by the others who ran away, the leader denied Jesus, his trust in the group of apostles had been abused. He didn’t want much more to do with them. He had got tired of it all. He wanted to believe but needed a sort of proof. But faith grows within a community. That’s why we administer the sacraments like baptism.  We find growth in our faith through the community – for example, in the Mass, sharing our faith in a group or a good spiritual- Bible study, sharing our doubts but never closing the door to Jesus, sharing our faith in thanks for what our faith gives us.
  • In community, the disciples found faith in the risen Christ. Thomas, for some reason, was not with them when the Lord came. Separated from the community, he found faith more difficult. Faith in the Lord, while personal, is not a private affair. In the faith of one, the faith of another may be strengthened. Formation in faith for the disciples had its communal experience – together they learned and found faith in the Lord.
  • Jesus always brings peace and reconciliation. Saint Augustine called peace ‘the tranquility of order’, meaning order in my relationships with God, with other people and within myself. Where is there lack of peace in my life? Who do I need to make peace with? Do I make space to experience God’s forgiveness and gift of peace? I ask for his peace so that I may bring others the peace of Christ.

Experience the living Jesus: Jesus was alive- with physical body. John the apostle says we have seen with our eyes, we have heard with our ears and we have touched and ate with him.

 That’s what we experience in this Lord’s Supper the Living Presence – His body to satisfy our hunger and His blood to quench our thirst.

The Easter brings Three gifts to us: 1. the gift of peace, 2. the gift of power-“Receive the Holy Spirit” [the power].  And 3. The gift of purpose “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”  – . The opposite of peace is conflict. The opposite of power is weakness. The opposite of purpose is aimlessness.

“Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 5:1).

Jesus sending you and me to extend His peace, His power, His mission and His light and His truth and His life in the world.

Prayer: Thank you Jesus for blessing us with Great HOPE in you.

Come Lord Jesus to meet us, to talk with us, to change our lives. Because we are discouraged, disappointed and despair for the troubles and works the flesh and woks of this world and works of devil. With your help the world may discover that you are the messiah. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.

Our Easter Hope: We Need it Now More than Ever

Sermon delivered on Easter Sunday B, April 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: Acts 10.34-43; 1 Corinthians 15.1-11; St. John 20.1-18.

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

Today we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly there is a lot of muddled thinking about the Resurrection and I blame the Church primarily for that because it capitulated to the forces of secularization and so-called “enlightened” thinking, thinking that dismisses Christ’s resurrection as made-up fantasy. To put it bluntly, the Church for the most part, at least in the West, has lost her bold voice and failed to proclaim and live out her resurrection hope, and we suffer because of it. We can’t expect the people of God to proclaim and live their Easter Faith if Holy Mother Church doesn’t teach them what that faith is and what it is supposed to look like! So this morning I want us to look at exactly what the first Christians proclaimed when they proclaimed Christ’s Resurrection. Why? Because without the Spirit-filled power of an informed and robust Easter Faith, given the crazy state of our world today and the patients who are trying to run the asylum, we as Christians will inevitably succumb to the destructive Zeitgeist of this age and in doing so bring harm to ourselves and dishonor the Name of the One we profess to follow.

On Friday we looked at what was so “good” about Good Friday and saw that the cross of Christ is a tangible sign of God’s great love for us and his desire to offer us forgiveness, irrespective of who we are or what we have done or failed to do, thereby establishing the necessary conditions for our reconciliation with God, a message echoed in today’s reading from Acts. This is quite necessary if we ever hope to find real healing and peace. Without the healing and forgiveness of Christ found only in having faith in him, no matter how imperfect that faith, it is impossible to be a faithful disciple of Jesus where we can love and serve him in joyful obedience, even in the face of the suffering we must inevitably endure for his sake. Simply put, we cannot love and serve Christ and others if we are distracted by our guilt, failure, and fears. And so forgiveness is absolutely essential for anyone who wants to be a a follower of Christ and the cross is God’s everlasting promise to us that we have that forgiveness. How do I know this is true? How can you know this is true so that you can stake your very life on it? Is it because I’m a smart guy? Well yes I am (good looking too), but that’s not why I know it’s true. We all can have great confidence that this is true because Jesus Christ is raised from the dead! Without the Resurrection, we never would have heard the name of Jesus let alone worship him, and without the cross, the Resurrection would not be possible because we would still be dead in our sins, alienated and hostile to God the Father, and deprived of any real hope. Simply put, the new heavens and earth will not be open to those who are still sin-stained. More about that anon. As St. Paul took pains to remind us in our epistle lesson, Christ’s death and resurrection were historical events, the crucified and risen Christ being witnessed and experienced by hundreds of people, and with it the turning point of history had arrived, the very essence of NEWS, Good News. The old order was done for; God’s new order had arrived, and with it God’s healing love and forgiveness. So the first thing we need to say about Christ’s Resurrection is an historical event inextricably tied to his saving death on the cross. This is critical for a vibrant Easter Faith.

Second, and equally crucial for us to have a meaningful Easter Faith is to have a clear understanding of what resurrection means. When the NT writers and early Church proclaimed Jesus Christ is raised from the dead, they didn’t mean that Jesus had gone to heaven to be with God. It didn’t mean that Jesus was somehow available to them in a new spiritual way so that they could commune with him. That’s an ancient gnostic heresy that is still the darling of many today, including sadly many Christians. In both instances, our Lord would still have been dead and gone, his body presumably moldering somewhere, but certainly still a corpse. This focus on spirituality and life after death is emphatically not what the NT writers meant when they proclaimed Christ was raised from the dead. If Christ was merely available to his first followers in some mystical or spiritual sense, what difference would that really have made to them? Think about it. When our own beloved die, we might draw some comfort and solace if we think there really is life after death. But the fact is, they’re still dead. We can’t see them, touch them, talk with them, hear them, smell them, or interact with them in any meaningful way. Neither does our hope that our dead loved ones somehow survive after their mortal death generally have the power to change our lives much. We must adjust to life without them, and if we had any meaningful relationship with them in this mortal life, our lives going forward are always poorer because they are no longer available to us as they were in this mortal life. No, if Christ’s Resurrection was simply about a new kind of spirituality, the first disciples wouldn’t have been running all over the place that first Easter Sunday, full of wonder, excitement, and fear. I know I don’t have that kind of reaction when I visit the graves of my loved ones. They’re  dead and gone and my life is the poorer for it, forgetting for the moment my Easter Faith. So to repeat, resurrection is not about dying and going to heaven or life after death or spirituality.

So what is resurrection? When the first followers of Christ proclaimed that he was raised from the dead, they were talking about new bodily existence and this is where the brilliance of St. John as a theologian and storyteller shines brightly. As we read last night at the Easter Vigil, creation has always mattered to God. Scripture proclaims that before God created there was nothing but darkness and chaos, but that God created goodness and order to replace that. Genesis declares very clearly that God’s original creation was good and God’s creation of his human image-bearers to run his good creation made the whole enterprise very good. Here we see a good God speak into existence a good created order, complete with his image-bearers to run the whole thing. 

But then came human sin and rebellion, and that allowed the powers of Evil and Death to enter God’s good creation to corrupt and disorder it. The whole story of Scripture, then, is about how God is rescuing his good created order (us included) from our bondage to the powers of Evil, Sin, and Death. Fast forward now to St. John’s gospel, which as we saw at Christmas, purposely mirrors the creation narratives of Genesis 1-2, but with the focus specifically on the Son of God, Jesus Christ. As we saw Friday night, Good Friday represented the culmination of God’s redemptive work in Christ, the sixth day of God’s (re)creative process, mirroring the sixth day of the original creation narratives that represented the pinnacle of God’s creative activity as he created humans. On the cross, Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures as St. Paul declares in our epistle lesson, and his dying words were, “It is finished.” But what was finished? As we saw above and on Good Friday, what was finished is God’s redemptive work to reconcile us to him through the blood of the Lamb so that we could once again take our rightful place as God’s good and wise image-bearers to run God’s new creation, the new heavens and earth. This was always God’s creative intent. And then on the seventh day, Christ rested in his tomb, paralleling the seventh day of creation when God rested from his creative work. Now here we are, the first day of the new week, the eighth day. St. John clearly wants us to see that when God raised Jesus from the dead on that day, God ushered in the new world, the new heavens and earth. It’s so important that the evangelist repeats it later in this chapter as we will see next week. Christ died to make all things new and break the powers of Evil, Sin, and Death so that we would no longer be enslaved by them. Why? Because creation matters to God. We matter to God, and Scripture testifies consistently that it has always been God the Father’s intent to heal and restore his good but corrupted created order, us included. 

And so this is what the first followers meant when they talked about Christ’s Resurrection. New bodily life, a new created order. As we saw in our gospel lesson, Mary tried to grab hold of Jesus. You don’t do that with a ghost or disembodied spirit. Christ’s new body had both similarities to our mortal bodies as well as new characteristics. His followers could see him, hear him, touch him, converse with him, and eat and drink with him, just like they could in his mortal life. Yet his body was different. He could mask his identity as he did initially with Mary in the garden and with his disciples at the Sea of Tiberius. He could appear and disappear behind locked doors. All of this would certainly have produced the kind of commotion and fear the gospel writers all report happening that first Easter Sunday because it was something totally unexpected. And let’s be clear about that too. The women didn’t come to Christ’s tomb expecting to see him risen from the dead. They knew, as we do, that dead people don’t come out of their graves. They came instead to mourn his death and anoint his body to slow down the inevitable decomposition that accompanies death. 

So why is this all critical to us and our Easter Faith? Well, if, as Revelation promises in its closing chapters, God’s new world is a-coming, the day when the dimensions of heaven and earth are joined together in a new created order, we will need new bodies to inhabit it. Why? Because the new creation will be a material order, but also something entirely new, a world devoid of all the evils and hurts and heartaches we must endure in this mortal life, and it will last forever because Death will be abolished forever. Therefore we need bodies that will last forever, the kind of bodies that are patterned after our risen Lord’s body, suitable to live in God’s new world. St. Paul spells this out in detail later in 1 Cor 15 but that will have to wait for another day. The critical point here is that when the first Christians spoke of Christ’s Resurrection they were proclaiming new bodily life, and that is so much more satisfactory than some disembodied spiritual existence. 

Why? Because without a body, human relationships as we know and value them would be impossible. Take St. Peter’s restoration for instance. When our Lord restored St. Peter after the latter’s disastrous denial of Christ, he had to be embodied for it to have a lasting impact on St. Peter. Our own spiritual struggles validate this. Unless we hear an tender voice speaking to us, unless we can look into another person’s eyes and hear the tone of his or her voice and feel the person’s gentle touch, we will never be quite sure if we are forgiven or restored. We ask forgiveness in prayer and we are assured that we receive it because Christ lives and intercedes for us. But we receive it by faith. Unless we hear his voice or receive a clear intimation from him, there is always the possibility of doubt. Are we really forgiven? I suspect St. Peter’s catastrophic denials were so severe that nothing less than an encounter with his risen embodied Lord would do it for him. God, of course, knows best what we need to receive his healing love and forgiveness, but the point remains that without bodies we do not have what it takes to be truly human. And if we are not truly human we are not God’s image-bearers and God’s original and eternal intent for us is destroyed. If we believe in an omnipotent God, a moment’s thought will confirm to us what a ridiculous proposition that is. What Christ’s resurrection announced to his first followers and to us is that the old world order of Sin, Evil, and Death is defeated, that a new day has dawned—God’s new day, the beginning of the new heavens and earth. That day is not yet consummated but the war has been won and we are the beneficiaries. The rest, as a cabbie once said to N.T. Wright, is basically rock and roll, isn’t it?

So how can our Easter Faith assist us in the living of our days in this increasingly mad and bizarre world? Time limits me to two basic ideas to get you jump-started in our own thinking and reflections. First, Christ’s Resurrection invites us to look at our present world and evaluate it using different criteria. Instead of looking at the past and present to assess our future prospects, what if we use our future hope of new creation to assess our present world? When we assess our future prospects using the past and present, how can there really be any hope? The human condition hasn’t changed. Science and technology, while making our lives so much better and easier in some ways, has not changed who we are. Human rapacity, sin, selfishness, pride, greed, and lust for power (to name just a few) continue unabated and unchanged by any of our scientific advancements, the Star Trek myth notwithstanding. In fact, if anything, technology has exposed human wickedness in unprecedented ways. We have instant access to an unending stream of bad news and human madness and evil. Death still reigns. People still suffer. Old age and infirmity still come. We are still alienated to each other and the God-ordained institutions of marriage and family are crumbling before our eyes. Our nation becomes increasingly divided and there are very few voices of reason out there these days. Based on this, what is our realistic hope for the future? This is the old world order at its finest and worst, and with it comes darkness, despair, sickness, and death. 

But what if we really believe Christ’s Resurrection announced the in-breaking of God’s new world, a world in which Evil, Sin, and Death are destroyed forever? A world in which there is no more sickness, sorrow, suffering, alienation, despair, or want of any kind? A world that is dominated by the love and goodness of God, a world about which St. Paul spoke in 1 Cor 13? To be sure, that world has not yet arrived, but it’s coming in full one day and we are called by Christ to so order our lives in ways that will announce to the powers of the old order that their day is through. We do this locally as the family of God. We love each other, care for each other, and suffer with and for each other. We bear each others quirks and pricklies. We grieve with those who grieve and rejoice with those who rejoice. We worship together our risen Lord and Savior and eagerly await his return to finish the work he started in his death and resurrection. We refuse to take revenge and are quick to forgive, especially those who hate Christ and us for being his followers. This will inevitably produce suffering for us, but we have a real hope and future. We know a new world is coming some day. It may be a million years from now. It may be tomorrow. But that doesn’t matter. We assess our present and imitate our crucified and risen Lord because we believe that his Resurrection announced a new world order, a world order run by God alone, a perfect world in which we have been invited to live forever because of the love of God poured out for us on the cross and vindicated that first Easter Sunday. As the great bishop of S. India, Lesslie Newbigin, once said, “I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.” Exactly.

And on a more personal and emotional note, Christ’s Resurrection promises us that Death will not have the final say. If you have ever watched a loved one suffer and die or are enduring a loved one’s infirmity or terminal disease, you know how heartbreaking that is. But your Easter hope can help mitigate the heartbreak. Why? Because we know that the ugliness and suffering we and our loved ones are enduring (or endured) will one day be redeemed. Broken, weak, ugly bodies on the verge of death will be restored to new beauty and vitality unknown in this mortal life. Suffering, sorrow, and separation will be no more. We will once again get to see, touch, hear, smell, and converse with our beloved as fully restored human beings, perfect and beautiful in unimaginable ways, our relationships with them healed and restored. Who would not want that? But that day has not yet arrived. Until it does we must be content that our dead loved ones are taking their rest in their Lord who claimed them from all eternity, safe in his loving care in heaven as they await their new bodies. In the meantime hope remains, the sure and certain expectation of things to come, because Jesus Christ is raised from the dead, announcing God’s promised new reality, helping us to endure the unendurable until that great and glorious day. The hope of resurrections fulfills our deepest longing for restored human relationships shattered by death.

If you are having a hard time imagining this, don’t worry. God’s power and love and beauty, which of course the Resurrection is all about, is hard for us mortal finite humans to imagine. But just because we cannot fully imagine it doesn’t mean it’s not true. This Eastertide, be living signs of God’s new world. Find ways to celebrate and imitate your crucified and risen Lord. And when the news of the day gets to be too much for you so that you find yourself despairing over the state of things in this country and/or your life, remember that Jesus is Lord and the powers of the present order are not (and that’s got nothing to do with politics, my beloved). I’m not talking about platitudes; I am talking about availing yourself to God’s power, a power that not even the darkest powers can overcome. But you can’t do this on your own because you will be overwhelmed by the pervasiveness of the madness of this world. So let us also resolve to remember and declare together that Jesus Christ is Lord and the dark powers that run this world are not. Their day is done, even if they are not fully vanquished. We know Jesus is Lord because he is raised from the dead and lives with God to intercede for us as his people. He calls us to be living signposts—tangible markers in this life pointing to our final destination, not the destination itself—of his healing love and redemption of the entire human race. So let us together as God’s people here at St. Augustine’s resolve anew to embody God’s great love and forgiveness, goodness and righteousness, to a world gone mad. As we do, let us resolve to worship God and the Lamb together in the power of the Holy Spirit and to rejoice in this gift of resurrection life. Let us come to Christ’s table and feed on him and so be strengthened for this arduous task. Let us have generous hearts with which to share the abundance of Christ’s love and blessings. Let us enjoy sweet fellowship together and take care of each other, always welcoming strangers and inviting others to join in the Paschal Feast. And let our worship and fellowship drive a renewed sense of service to a world that so desperately needs to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Everything has changed because Christ has died and risen from the dead. Stake your very life on it and be bold in your living and proclamation of this new reality. And let us find ways to announce this Good News to the world, especially during these next fifty days. After all, we have hope for the present, no matter how bleak things become, because we know our future is secure, and not even the gates of hell can rob us of that promise. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever. Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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