Bishop Julian Dobbs: Real Living. Do You Know What it Looks Like?

Sermon delivered on Trinity 15A, Sunday, September 20, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

The bishop caught Father Bowser’s anti-writing fever so there is no text for today’s sermon. To listen to the audio podcast, click here

Lectionary texts: Exodus 16.2-15; Psalm 105.1-6, 37-45; Philippians 1.21-30; Matthew 20.1-16.

Ordained Ministry: Living Out Your Call (It Ain’t for Sissies)

Sermon delivered at the ordination of Dr. Jonathon Wylie to the sacred order of Priest, Friday, September 18, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 6.1-8; Psalm 119.33-40; Ephesians 4.7-16; St. Luke 10.1-9.

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

Tonight is your big night, soon-to-be Father Wylie (God willing and the bishop consenting), and already your ministry is in trouble. Instead of preaching at your ordination the bishop has called in the second string to preach. Perhaps you shouldn’t quit your day job quite yet. Or perhaps you’ve got even bigger fish to worry about. Cardinal Mercier in speaking to his ordinands once said, “Remember, God chose you to be a priest because he could not trust you to be a layman!” Maybe having a second stringer preach at your ordination is the least of your worries. I don’t know. 

All teasing aside, it is my privilege to preach at your ordination tonight. While I would never admit this in public, I know you are going to be a superb priest, young man—Oh wait. I just admitted it. Bishop, is it time to call in the third string? Father Gatwood is here with us tonight—and as such, I want to remind and exhort you to two sacred duties as a priest in Christ’s one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. There are more than these two duties but there are not less, and I take my cue from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in our epistle lesson tonight. 

First as you begin your ordained ministry, I urge you to be first and foremost a good pastor (shepherd) to the people you will serve. The work we do as clergy is above all else relational on all kinds of levels. We are called to party with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (and everything in between). You must be willing to forgive those who grieve you, especially the EGR folks (extra grace required—the bishop knows how to do this very well because he has to deal with EGR clergy like me all the time, so learn from him how it’s done because he does it superbly). Of course you must also be willing to forgive yourself when you miss the mark or get it wrong. It means you must be willing to confront folks pastorally when they go astray and gently try to help them get back on track. You must also be humble enough to let them do likewise to you when you miss the mark. This all requires that you love the people you serve, love being defined as desiring and advocating the best for yourself and your parish family, and that of course means pointing folks to Christ as the way to live their lives. We have an excellent example of what I am talking about in 1 Corinthians 5. There St. Paul confronts the church at Corinth about allowing a stepson to sleep with his stepmother, all in the name of “grace.” How can you let this kind of sexual immortality go on? St. Paul demands. Not even the pagans allow this kind of depravity! He continues by saying:

You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship. …I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church…Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns (1 Corinthians 5.1-2, 5).

Notice carefully the apostle’s love for his people here, a love that made him confront them about behavior that clearly had the ability to destroy them as God’s people in Christ. But St. Paul did not advocate punishment for its own sake. The discipline he imposed had a restorative purpose. Yes, the man was involved in an egregious sin, but he was still dearly loved by Christ and worth the effort to seek his restoration to Christ’s body despite the man’s catastrophic moral failure. Love Christ’s people enough to help them get back on track and then help them keep on track. That’s the essence of being a good pastor to your people. Encourage them. Support them. Uplift them, and yes confront them when necessary, but always out of a deep sense of love for God’s people and out of a sense of profound humility. Remember, as St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23). We all are in desperate need of Christ’s love, mercy, and grace. Your job as a pastor to God’s people is to model this for them, however imperfectly you do so. God will honor your work done faithfully, whether you see it first-hand or not.

Aside from confronting folks, which very few of us like to do (and the ones who do probably shouldn’t be our fellow clergy), most people who go into ordained ministry like to pastor folks because they have a heart for God and his people. But there’s another aspect to pastoring that many of us are reluctant to do. As we have just seen, sometimes wolves infiltrate God’s people and try to disrupt and corrupt them via false teaching or whacky ideas or evil behavior. And what are good pastors to do? Like St. Paul, they shoot the wolves to protect Christ’s family. Corrupt ideas/behavior and bad teaching are like cancer. If you let them spread, the whole body gets infected and dies, and so you must cut out the cancer before it metastasizes. Nobody likes to do this and you must be patient, humble, and circumspect in doing so, always consulting with your bishop for guidance and support in this difficult task. But if you love God and his people enough and want to be a good pastor to them, you must be willing to shoot the wolves when necessary to protect those whom you serve (and yourself as well) when they rear their ugly heads. May God always give you the needed reticence, wisdom, grace, strength, toughness, and love to be a good pastor to his people. 

All this of course requires a good deal of prayer, self-examination, Bible study, and a willingness to be part of a community who loves you and will support you, and who will hold you accountable, both in good times and bad. Don’t make the mistake that many clergy do and try to be a rugged individualist in your work. That’s the last thing God’s people need, starting with you and your own family. Find folks, both lay and clergy, you trust and with whom you can share your joys, sorrows, trials, and tribulations (and as long as we have our current bishop, lean on him as well. He is a pastor par excellence). Trusted friends allow you to think, speak, and act badly in private so that you can act well in public. We are called to live life together as God’s people. Don’t make the critical mistake of trying to do your ministry in isolation. The world, the flesh, and the devil will conspire to pick you off.

Likewise, I am constantly amazed at the number of clergy I know who have almost no semblance of a devotional life, and who ignore the rich devotional history/tools the Church provides, our Anglican tradition included, to give them the spiritual strength and compass needed to be a good pastor. Don’t become part of the vast spiritual wasteland that sadly exists among God’s people and ignore your spiritual health, my brother. It will undo you quicker than greased lightning. Make your devotions a regular and integral part of your daily discipline and when possible, do them with others. The Lord will surely bless you if you do. Again, as St. Peter warns us, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5.8). Don’t become another of Satan’s victims like many clergy have become on occasion. A robust devotional life will go a long way in helping you avoid the Evil One’s traps.

If you are a good pastor to your parish family, your second sacred function as a priest will be much easier because you will have built up good relational capital and folks are always more willing to listen to those whom they love and respect. What is that second function you ask? I’m glad you did because it will allow me to finish this sermon in short order. The second sacred function you are charged with is to teach those you serve their own Story as lived out in Word and Sacrament so that they too will be able to withstand the dark powers and their human agents that corrupt and destroy God’s good world and people. Time does not permit me to explore this in any detail. Instead, I want to exhort you to proclaim God’s word boldly and with power, God’s power, both in Word and Sacrament. We Christians have the only answer to the desperate times in which we live: the gospel of Jesus Christ. But over the last several centuries, at least in the West, holy Mother Church has lost her voice and her boldness to proclaim Jesus Christ, crucified and raised from the dead, to a world who desperately needs to know him. So help those entrusted to you to learn the Five Act Play as Tom Wright has dubbed the narrative that is contained in the Old and New Testaments: Creation, Fall, Israel, Christ, and the Church in the end times. We live in perilous times when godlessness and lawlessness seem to be winning the day. We are at each other’s throats more often than not, and if we continue this course, our nation cannot stand. But we are people of God and therefore have the power of God—a power made known supremely in Christ’s saving death and resurrection—to help us navigate through these times. How desperately the world needs to hear the central message of Scripture: That God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5.19). The Church cannot stand if she refuses to believe her own story. So teach that story contained in God’s holy Word and in the holy Sacraments of the Church. Don’t ignore either one. Preach and live the gospel of Christ boldly and expect your people to do likewise. Teach your people to feed on the holy power contained in the Sacraments. It is our only hope and this too is your sacred task as a priest. 

Remember, you are not called to save the world. God has already done that in Christ. As a priest in Christ’s body, you are charged with the sacred responsibility of equipping God’s people for the arduous task of living faithfully in this mortal life. None of us can do this on our own. But the Christian faith is not another version of human self-help that inevitably must fail. It is about the power of God to overcome all that is evil and corrupt, and it has the power to heal, transform, and redeem, despite our best efforts to the contrary and messy as that looks at times. If you will be a good pastor and bold evangel to God’s people, however well or poorly you do so, have the confidence that God will use your ministry to help bring his kingdom on earth as in heaven. This is the sacred privilege and task of every human being as divine image-bearers, especially God’s ordained ministers, and I charge you tonight, soon-to-be Father Wylie, to devote your considerable skills and talents to this call, all the while resting confidently in the Lord, who is your life and strength and power all the days of your life. The extent you are able to carry out these sacred duties is the extent God’s people under your care will grow up to the full stature of Christ—or to use OT parlance since you are an OT scholar, to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with their God (Micah 6.8)—so they have the ability to withstand all that assails them as Christ’s people. Again, remember always to rely on and trust in the power of him who calls into existence things that don’t exist and who raises the dead to life (Romans 4.17). I know you will do a great job with these daunting tasks because I know you do believe and trust in the Lord’s great love and power for his people and you. Be assured too, my dear brother, that you will have my ongoing prayers and affection as you live out your call to ministry. God bless you. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

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

Judging vs. Judgmentalism

Our preaching series on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans concludes today. Sermon delivered on Trinity 14A, Sunday, September 13, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Exodus 14.19-31; Psalm 114; Romans 14.1-12; Matthew 18.21-35.

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

This morning we conclude our preaching series on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. Hang on to your hats and keep up with me because there is a LOT for us to cover. Before we look at what the apostle has to say today, I want to take a moment to review some of the highlights we have looked at over the summer. In the first 12 chapters of Romans, St. Paul has reminded us of the awful predicament we humans find ourselves in. We are all slaves to that outside and hostile power that Scripture calls Sin and it both corrupts and kills us. No one is immune to its power and no own can free themselves from its grip without the help of someone more powerful than Sin’s power. That someone of course is God and St. Paul has proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ to us: That at just the right time, while we were still helpless and enemies of God, God moved on our behalf to free us from our slavery to Sin and Death by becoming human and dying for us. Only by the blood of the Lamb shed for us can we hope to be spared from God’s just judgment on our sins and rebellion. For those who believe God has acted on our behalf in Christ by taking on his own judgment himself, there is now no condemnation for our sins despite the fact that the power of Sin still weighs us down in this mortal life. This is all a free gift given us out of the Father’s great love and tender mercy for us. As St. Paul tells us in chapter 11, “God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone” (v.32). Simply remarkable. But the apostle also makes clear that we are to respond to God’s great love and mercy by imitating our Lord in the living of our days instead of following our own selfish ways, relying on the powerof God to help us do so. In biblical parlance this is called repentance, turning back toward God in the power of the Spirit. As we have said repeatedly, the Christian faith is not another form of self-help. If that were the case it would have no Good News to offer and we would remain dead in our sins. 

Now in today’s epistle lesson, St. Paul continues to exhort us to holy living and reminds us in yet another context to rely on the power of God to do so. Here he addresses how we should treat each other as fellow Christians, both within our parish family and beyond. Before we look at what St. Paul says, we must keep in mind two very important points. First, underlying all his teaching here was St. Paul’s deep faith in the love and mercy of God made known in Jesus Christ. As we have seen, we were bought with the price of Christ’s own precious blood and are united with him by faith and through baptism. We are saved from our sins by God’s grace, not by what we do or don’t do. St. Paul summarized this nicely when he said, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10.9). It is faith in Christ that matters, a faith that heals hearts and minds and transforms life, however imperfectly and messy that looks. And because of that faith, we no longer belong to ourselves, but to Christ. 

Second, it is critical for us to understand that here St. Paul was not talking about issues that define the Christian faith, e.g., Christian teaching that Jesus is the Son of God, fully human and fully divine, or his saving death and bodily resurrection from the dead that signaled the defeat of death and the inauguration of God’s new creation. These doctrines and others were clearly taught in the NT and over the years the Church developed a consensus that reflected its one mind about these issues, various heresies and false teachings that regularly spring up notwithstanding. For issues of first importance, issues that affect our salvation and standing with God, St. Paul and the early Church held a much different view than he teaches in today’s lesson. We can see this in his rebuke of the church at Corinth for allowing a stepson to sleep with his stepmother, all in the name of “grace.” Any kind of sex outside the context of marriage is a sin and Scripture clearly teaches this throughout, despite many in today’s world who try to persuade us otherwise. How can you let this kind of sexual immortality go on? St. Paul roared. Not even the pagans allow this kind of depravity!

You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship. …I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church…Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns (1 Corinthians 5.1-2, 5)

Or consider his response to the Judaizers who had infiltrated and corrupted the church in Galatia by teaching that Christians had to be physically circumcised to be saved, violating St. Paul’s clear teaching on justification by faith and denying the power and efficacy of Christ’s death and resurrection. As far as St. Paul was concerned, those false teachers were wolves in sheep’s clothing. And what should you do with wolves who infiltrate Christ’s flock to corrupt and destroy it by teaching falsely? You shoot the wolves to protect the flock. Accordingly he told the Galatians, “I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves. For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters.” (Gal 5.12-13a).

Contrast this to what St. Paul teaches in today’s epistle lesson about issues of secondary importance, issues for which Scripture fails to provide a clear answer and/or which have never been settled in the history of the Church. In the church at Rome in St. Paul’s day those issues included dietary restrictions and the observance of holy days. In our day, the issue of the role of women in the Church or charismatic issues would be examples of these kind of secondary importance issues. Here St. Paul addresses the weak and the strong in faith. By “weak” St. Paul did not have in mind that these folks lacked faith in Christ but rather they didn’t understand that their faith in Christ meant that they were free from all previous legalistic requirements such as dietary laws or observing certain religious festivals. These requirements were not a basis for their Christian faith but rather part of their observance of it, i.e, they believed they had to follow these practices in order to walk with Christ properly. The weak in this context were most likely Jewish converts who struggled to cast off the old or at least blend them with the new teachings of the faith. 

For St. Paul, it wasn’t the fact that these Christians observed dietary regulations/religious festivals. If doing these things helped them grow in their relationship with Christ, he would have been all for it. What the apostle is concerned about here is that by doing these things the weak would not perceive themselves as weak but rather saw themselves as upholding high religious standards and principles, all the while looking down their noses at those who didn’t uphold these practices (the “strong”) because the strong didn’t see them as important for growing in their relationship with Christ. For them, Christ’s death and resurrection had set them free from their slavery to Sin and Death so that they didn’t have to observe such religious regulations. To use an example from our day, tomorrow is the Feast of the Holy Cross. There are devout Christians who will observe this feast as part of their devotional/discipleship practices and St. Paul would approve. However, if those who observe Holy Cross Day believe that those who don’t are somehow inferior Christians or that their rescue from Sin and Death depends on them observing it and other Feast Days of the Church, rather than trusting in the efficacy of Christ’s death and resurrection to save them, then St. Paul would likely take issue with these “weak” Christians of our day. Who are you to judge a fellow Christian for whom Christ died? We have a word for this and it’s called judgmentalism.

The problem of judgmentalism wasn’t just with “weak” Christians. “Strong” Christians also looked down their noses at those who did follow such practices. To despise a fellow believer in Christ suggests that the “strong” held their “weaker” family members in contempt out of some sense of superiority. Why are you weak guys observing dietary laws or religious holidays? You don’t need any of them to have a relationship with Christ. Christ has truly set us free. Make sure you stay free. Stop engaging in things that aren’t necessary. Loser. 

Again, keeping in mind that St. Paul is talking about secondary issues here, the apostle warns both sides not to judge the each other. We need to be careful about terms here, my beloved. When the NT warns us not to judge, it is not telling us to suspend moral judgment on behavior and thinking. There is far too much perversity in this world and to be living sacrifices to God requires us to make those kinds of judgments! What St. Paul is talking about here is the sin of pride and presumption. Each side condemned practices (or lack of them) out of a sense of superiority and sadly we continue to do this all the time to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Just look at Father Maney! He eats and drinks too much and preaches lousy sermons. He can’t be a Christian in good standing! And why does Father Sang cross himself? That’s just weird. Or Dr. Falor. Why he hasn’t prayed the daily office since Moby Dick was a minnow! I pray the office everyday and I’m pretty sure that makes me a better Christian and more pleasing in Christ’s sight! And how about those wussies who didn’t come back to chapel today to worship like we have? Second rate Christians for sure! Real men don’t eat quiche and real Christians don’t stay away from church. You get the idea. Nowhere does St. Paul prohibit vigorous discussion and debate over issues of second importance, only our presumptive judgment on our opponents. Iron sharpens iron. Presumptive condescension produces rancor, ill will and hopeless division. It separates rather than unites. This same argument would also apply to interdenominational conflicts within the Church regarding secondary issues. It’s one thing to prefer your own tradition. It’s quite another to condemn those who don’t see it your way.

Looking beyond our parish family and the Church catholic we see this kind of presumptive pride and sneering all the time, especially in politics today. It’s the way of the world and we are not to participate in it. Our sin is not that we disagree with those who do not share our political views. Our sin is in presuming our views make us more pleasing in God’s sight than our opponents. Still don’t believe me? When you heard St. Paul ask, “Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister?” who did you think of first? The person who has passed judgment on you and your views/practices and got you all hot and bothered, or did you think about yourself? If you’re like me, you probably thought about instances where you have been wronged rather than the times you served as a stumbling block to another’s faith. That, my beloved, is a sure sign of pride and presumption and St. Paul has some stern words for us here: Be careful of your judgmentalism and the proud presumption behind it. We all have to stand before God’s judgment seat and give an account of our lives to God. This should be enough to strike fear in anyone who takes the judgment of God seriously.

So what’s going on here? Is this the same Paul who earlier proclaimed the Good News that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ? If no condemnation, how can St. Paul say something like this, both here and in 2 Cor 5.10? St. Paul is not talking out of both sides of his mouth. What he is reminding us is that only God knows our hearts and minds and only God has the power to judge. It simply won’t do to make God’s grace an idol. We can’t presume because we say the right words and do the right things that God owes it to us to not condemn us. When we presume God’s mercy and grace on us while at the same time we are unwilling to extend them to others, or when we see ourselves as being superior to others because of what we do (or don’t do) compared to them, we are setting ourselves up as de facto judges and claiming moral superiority over them. Remember, we have been bought with a price. We are saved only by the blood of the Lamb shed for us to free us from our slavery to the power of Sin, a free gift from the Father’s loving and generous heart. Without that, none of us has any real hope to be spared from the fires of hell because as St. Paul has already warned us in chapters 1-3, all have sinned and all will therefore be judged. 

This in no way negates what he has said earlier. God did bear his own judgment on our behalf when he took on our flesh and became human. At just the right time Christ did die for us, even while we were helpless and still God’s enemies. There is indeed nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God made known in Jesus Christ. But this is God’s gift to give out of his tender love and mercy for us, not ours to presume. And because it is God’s free gift to us, it is God’s prerogative to withhold them from us if by our lives and our tongues we demonstrate clearly that we see the cross as nothing more than a get-out-of-jail-free card for us so that we can continue behaving as badly as we did before we knew Christ. We cannot and dare not presume God will rescue us from his judgment just because we call ourselves Christian or we read snippets of the Bible, come to church regularly, and partake in the Eucharist while all the time running down and sneering at our opponents. Our life and death are God’s, not our own, and we dare not presume otherwise. To be sure, we can rely on God being good to his word and promises to us that he has indeed rescued us from Sin and Death and from his terrible judgment in and through Christ. But we dare not presume it and show our presumption in how we mistreat or judge others with haughty contempt. 

Christ tells us virtually the same thing in his parable in our gospel lesson this morning. The first servant had an impossible debt to pay, just like we cannot save ourselves from God’s just judgment on our rebellion and sin. The king took pity on the servant and forgave his impossible debt at great cost to the king. And what did the servant do? Did he realize the great grace and mercy offered him? Did he resolve to treat others similarly? Not a chance! He went after a fellow servant who owed him a manageable debt and refused to offer him the same grace he had begged the king to grant him. And our Lord’s punchline? If you want God to forgive you, you’d better do likewise. Don’t presume you have it automatically. Forgiveness is God’s prerogative and God owes us nothing other than judgment. So if you want God to forgive you, you’d better forgive others freely. We pray it every week in the Lord’s Prayer. Do you pay attention to it or dismiss it as inconvenient?

This warning not to presume God’s mercy and grace provides us with a healthy balance to help us live out our faith. We’ll surely get it wrong and no amount of do gooding will make God obligated to rescue us from his judgment. The knowledge that we all must stand in front of God’s judgment seat and give an account of our lives is the great equalizer and provides us with a much needed dose of daily humility. Yet we also dare to approach his throne with hope, trusting in God’s promise that there really is now no condemnation for those who put their hope and trust in Christ and live out their faith, however badly that might look at times. When we realize God owes us nothing but judgment but has moved instead to rescue us from that judgment, we can have confidence that the Holy Spirit will use that knowledge to heal and humble us and so be made ready to receive the eternal crown of glory in the new creation. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever. 

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

Father Santosh Madanu: The Debt of Love

Our preaching series on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans continues today. Sermon delivered on Trinity 13A, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020 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: Exodus 12.1-14; Psalm 149; Romans 13.8-14; Matthew 18.15-20.

Prayer: Lord Jesus we thank you for choosing St. Paul the Apostle, who inspires and encourages us to have passionate love towards God and genuine love towards one’s neighbor.  Bless our family of St. Augustine to be changed by God to make a difference for God

Even we write millions of books about love of God- Jesus Christ and teach and preach millions times about love of neighbor as yourself, still there is message yet to preach about love of God and love of neighbor.  Because the infinite love, God the Father has for us, and the reality of love of neighbor has  to be taken not as a dream or ideal but the authentic nature of God that we need to have that should enable us to share our goodness, kindness, concern and love to our fellow human beings.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

What Jesus Christ said about the love of Neighbor as the second  greatest commandment, St. Paul repeats it, saying any other commandments are summed up in this word, “ Love your neighbor as yourself”………..

What does it mean?

True Christianity is based on the realistic world. Love of neighbor is not a great idea or ideal like communism.  Communists think of that the rich share their wealth with the poor. It should not be taken as a beautiful ideal commandment. But it should be taken as great commission one has to practice indeed.

If at least half of the Christians in the world taken it and practiced it in their lives- embracing all human beings with the sincere love, there will be transformation of human beings and the world will be changed into happiest place in turn it becomes heaven on earth.

A measure of self-respect may come from living according to the twin principles, “owe nothing to anyone,” and “no one owes me anything.

The apostle Paul speaks to the Christian community in Rome; Romans 13:8-14. There, he calls believers to live according to the principle that one obligation can never be settled: the debt of love.

Paul unfolds his gospel of grace in chapters 1-11. In light of that gospel, he calls his audience to offer their bodies “as a living sacrifice” (12:1-2). The rest of chapters 12-13 begin to show the practical outworking of sacrificial living. Paul’s audience can begin to see what it means to “be transformed by the renewing of [their] minds” so as to “discern what the will of God is” (12:2).

It means thinking and acting in a way so as not to please oneself but others (verses 3-8), and it means making one’s love for others genuine (verses 9-21). Paul addresses the Christian community’s relationship to governing authorities in chapter (13:1-7), recalling his appeal, “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (12:18). Now in 13:8-14, he recapitulates the theme of love for others. This sets the tone for the exhortations of chapters 14-15, in which Paul calls stronger and weaker believers to live together in mutual love (14:14).

The catchword “owe” connects 13:7 to 13:8. Paul shifts from addressing obligations to the governing authorities to addressing obligations to one’s neighbor. His audience is to have no outstanding debts except to love one another. The reason for this debt is, “for the one who loves another has fulfilled (pleroo) the law” (verse 8b).

Paul clearly means the Mosaic Law, because he lists four of the Ten Commandments: do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, and do not covet. It may seem that he contradicts what he went to great lengths to establish earlier in the letter, that through Christ, believers have died to the law to live anew in the Spirit (7:4-6).

Paradoxically, however, believers have died to the law so that the law may be fulfilled in them. Paul’s audience may recall the last time he appealed to a commandment. In 7:7, he explained how sin took advantage of the commandment, “You shall not covet,” to produce covetousness.

Nevertheless, he says, the law itself is not equated with sin, but is “holy and righteous and good.” Rather, sin is what makes the commandments deadly (7:11). The solution, then, is not to dispose of the law altogether, but to deal with sin.

God sent Jesus to break the relentless hold of sin and death over human beings, “in order that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled (pleroo) in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4; see 13:8b). For those who are in Christ and living by the Spirit, Paul can now say that, “You shall not covet,” with the other community-oriented commands listed, is constitutive of the law of love (13:11-14).

This is what Jesus said: All the law and the prophets hang on two commands, love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:34-30; see also John 13:34-35). It is also what Jesus himself did.  Paul presents Christ himself as the example to follow: “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, Jesus lived for the sake of others, making his love for others genuine at the cross. Jesus says Love one and another as I have loved you.

In 13:11-14, Paul shifts the vision of his audience to see the command to love one’s neighbor in light of the future day of salvation (see 8:18-25). He writes of the salvation approaching “us,” highlighting its community orientation. The appeal to awaken from sleep and lay aside the deeds of darkness evokes the appeal not to be conformed to “this world/age” (aion) in 12:1-2.

Paul also writes about this idea elsewhere, explaining that Jesus “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age” (aion; Galatians 1:4). Those who are in Christ belong to a new age with new values. 

Since believers belong to the age of light and day, they are to put on the armor of light (verse 12). This is synonymous with putting on the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 14). In the context, to put on Christ is to imitate him in loving one’s neighbor through self-sacrificial service. The love that believers express is a weapon against the darkness and the flesh as the community moves together towards the day of salvation.

The debt of love can never be settled because we grow up into the salvation that is ours in Christ by loving our neighbor through the work of the Spirit. The working out of our salvation is a community undertaking, making impossible for us to live as free agents.

For salvation is near to us now St. Paul says.  What does that mean?

It means when I believe Jesus is real, he is my Lord and my savior,

It means when I believe the teaching of Jesus Christ and the Bible are living word.

It means when I believe that Jesus died for my sins on the cross and rose on the third day

It means when I transform my life and put on Christ

And it means when I love my neighbor as I love myself.  This is what it meant to be salvation is near to me.

Let us hold fast the salvation that is given as a gift right now.

Let us reflect the word of God from the book of Exodus of today’s reading because it is very relevant in today’s situation – Covid 19:

God the Yahweh, made true indelible mark on the people of Israel with the event of Passover- It is the Passover of the Lord because he alone is true living God. Our God is very clear about executing judgement on Idol worship and worshiping other gods like Hindus, who has thousands of gods like Ganesh, Rama, Kristina, Venteshvarudu, Vishnu etc.

God the Yahweh says “the blood shall be sign for you where you live” The blood of Jesus Christ on the cross is the only sign that we live.  For we believe in His justification, Jesus made satisfaction on behalf of all humanity and washed away the sin of the world through His precious blood.  That is why we remember and celebrate every Sunday this Lord’s Supper- the Eucharist.

God the Father says” I will pass over you and no plague shall destroy you”.  Yes, God the Father is passing over us – over St. Augustine Family.  Be prepared to welcome Him.  Because, we need this plague, Covid-19 should be destroyed and we will be saved.  This day, Sunday. September 6/2020 should be the day of remembrance for us.  We celebrate it as a festival to the Lord today.  For the Lord delivered from this Covid19.

Prayer: May the indwelling holy spirit direct us to take the commission of Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves and to make the difference in the lives of many. And to live like Jesus, love like Jesus and not to water down our own witness to Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord Jesus we thank you for choosing St. Paul the Apostle, who inspires and encourages us to have passionate love towards God and genuine love towards one’s neighbor.  Bless our family of St. Augustine to be changed by God to make a difference for God

Even we write millions of books about love of God- Jesus Christ and teach and preach millions times about love of neighbor as yourself, still there is message yet to preach about love of God and love of neighbor.  Because the infinite love, God the Father has for us, and the reality of love of neighbor has  to be taken not as a dream or ideal but the authentic nature of God that we need to have that should enable us to share our goodness, kindness, concern and love to our fellow human beings.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

What Jesus Christ said about the love of Neighbor as the second  greatest commandment, St. Paul repeats it, saying any other commandments are summed up in this word, “ Love your neighbor as yourself”………..

What does it mean?

True Christianity is based on the realistic world. Love of neighbor is not a great idea or ideal like communism.  Communists think of that the rich share their wealth with the poor. It should not be taken as a beautiful ideal commandment. But it should be taken as great commission one has to practice indeed.

If at least half of the Christians in the world taken it and practiced it in their lives- embracing all human beings with the sincere love, there will be transformation of human beings and the world will be changed into happiest place in turn it becomes heaven on earth.

A measure of self-respect may come from living according to the twin principles, “owe nothing to anyone,” and “no one owes me anything.

The apostle Paul speaks to the Christian community in Rome; Romans 13:8-14. There, he calls believers to live according to the principle that one obligation can never be settled: the debt of love.

Paul unfolds his gospel of grace in chapters 1-11. In light of that gospel, he calls his audience to offer their bodies “as a living sacrifice” (12:1-2). The rest of chapters 12-13 begin to show the practical outworking of sacrificial living. Paul’s audience can begin to see what it means to “be transformed by the renewing of [their] minds” so as to “discern what the will of God is” (12:2).

It means thinking and acting in a way so as not to please oneself but others (verses 3-8), and it means making one’s love for others genuine (verses 9-21). Paul addresses the Christian community’s relationship to governing authorities in chapter (13:1-7), recalling his appeal, “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (12:18). Now in 13:8-14, he recapitulates the theme of love for others. This sets the tone for the exhortations of chapters 14-15, in which Paul calls stronger and weaker believers to live together in mutual love (14:14).

The catchword “owe” connects 13:7 to 13:8. Paul shifts from addressing obligations to the governing authorities to addressing obligations to one’s neighbor. His audience is to have no outstanding debts except to love one another. The reason for this debt is, “for the one who loves another has fulfilled (pleroo) the law” (verse 8b).

Paul clearly means the Mosaic Law, because he lists four of the Ten Commandments: do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, and do not covet. It may seem that he contradicts what he went to great lengths to establish earlier in the letter, that through Christ, believers have died to the law to live anew in the Spirit (7:4-6).

Paradoxically, however, believers have died to the law so that the law may be fulfilled in them. Paul’s audience may recall the last time he appealed to a commandment. In 7:7, he explained how sin took advantage of the commandment, “You shall not covet,” to produce covetousness.

Nevertheless, he says, the law itself is not equated with sin, but is “holy and righteous and good.” Rather, sin is what makes the commandments deadly (7:11). The solution, then, is not to dispose of the law altogether, but to deal with sin.

God sent Jesus to break the relentless hold of sin and death over human beings, “in order that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled (pleroo) in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4; see 13:8b). For those who are in Christ and living by the Spirit, Paul can now say that, “You shall not covet,” with the other community-oriented commands listed, is constitutive of the law of love (13:11-14).

This is what Jesus said: All the law and the prophets hang on two commands, love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:34-30; see also John 13:34-35). It is also what Jesus himself did.  Paul presents Christ himself as the example to follow: “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, Jesus lived for the sake of others, making his love for others genuine at the cross. Jesus says Love one and another as I have loved you.

In 13:11-14, Paul shifts the vision of his audience to see the command to love one’s neighbor in light of the future day of salvation (see 8:18-25). He writes of the salvation approaching “us,” highlighting its community orientation. The appeal to awaken from sleep and lay aside the deeds of darkness evokes the appeal not to be conformed to “this world/age” (aion) in 12:1-2.

Paul also writes about this idea elsewhere, explaining that Jesus “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age” (aion; Galatians 1:4). Those who are in Christ belong to a new age with new values. 

Since believers belong to the age of light and day, they are to put on the armor of light (verse 12). This is synonymous with putting on the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 14). In the context, to put on Christ is to imitate him in loving one’s neighbor through self-sacrificial service. The love that believers express is a weapon against the darkness and the flesh as the community moves together towards the day of salvation.

The debt of love can never be settled because we grow up into the salvation that is ours in Christ by loving our neighbor through the work of the Spirit. The working out of our salvation is a community undertaking, making impossible for us to live as free agents.

For salvation is near to us now St. Paul says.  What does that mean?

It means when I believe Jesus is real, he is my Lord and my savior,

It means when I believe the teaching of Jesus Christ and the Bible are living word.

It means when I believe that Jesus died for my sins on the cross and rose on the third day

It means when I transform my life and put on Christ

And it means when I love my neighbor as I love myself.  This is what it meant to be salvation is near to me.

Let us hold fast the salvation that is given as a gift right now.

Let us reflect the word of God from the book of Exodus of today’s reading because it is very relevant in today’s situation – Covid 19:

God the Yahweh, made true indelible mark on the people of Israel with the event of Passover- It is the Passover of the Lord because he alone is true living God. Our God is very clear about executing judgement on Idol worship and worshiping other gods like Hindus, who has thousands of gods like Ganesh, Rama, Kristina, Venteshvarudu, Vishnu etc.

God the Yahweh says “the blood shall be sign for you where you live” The blood of Jesus Christ on the cross is the only sign that we live.  For we believe in His justification, Jesus made satisfaction on behalf of all humanity and washed away the sin of the world through His precious blood.  That is why we remember and celebrate every Sunday this Lord’s Supper- the Eucharist.

God the Father says” I will pass over you and no plague shall destroy you”.  Yes, God the Father is passing over us – over St. Augustine Family.  Be prepared to welcome Him.  Because, we need this plague, Covid-19 should be destroyed and we will be saved.  This day, Sunday. September 6/2020 should be the day of remembrance for us.  We celebrate it as a festival to the Lord today.  For the Lord delivered from this Covid19.

Prayer: May the indwelling holy spirit direct us to take the commission of Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves and to make the difference in the lives of many. And to live like Jesus, love like Jesus and not to water down our own witness to Jesus Christ.

 In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Father Philip Sang: Sincere Love

Our preaching series on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans continues this morning. Sermon delivered on Trinity 12A, Sunday, August 30, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Sang continues to boycott the written word, so if you want to listen to the audio podcast of his sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: Exodus 3.1-15; Psalm 105.1-6, 23-26; Romans 12.9-21; St. Matthew 16.21-28.

Becoming What You Already Are

We continue our preaching series on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. Sermon delivered on Trinity 11A, Sunday, August 23, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Exodus 1.8-2.10; Psalm 124; Romans 12.1-8; St. Matthew 16.13-20.

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

This morning we continue our preaching series on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. In our epistle lesson, St. Paul urges us not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind so that we can present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. What in the world is he talking about? Is he here exhorting us to try harder to be a good Christian or advocating for  a more robust self-help program (like we need even more delusional thinking than we already have)? If you heard our epistle lesson like that this morning, you probably missed that little adverb “therefore” at the beginning. What is the therefore there for, you ask? I’m glad you did. Maybe now I can get into the heart of this sermon.

The therefore reminds us that St. Paul is not talking about human power, the power to make ourselves better, an oxymoron at best. No, St. Paul is talking here about the power of God. And this should make sense to us if we review quickly how St. Paul has gotten us to this point. Recall that in Romans 1.18-32 he talked about a good amount of wrong thinking, the kind of thinking that darkens our minds, makes us hostile to God, and begins to erase God’s image in us so that we behave more like animals than humans. It results from humankind’s universal enslavement to the power of Sin as St. Paul emphatically states in Romans 3.9. This kind of wrong thinking produces in us lusts of all kinds, malice, envy, murder, and strife. It makes us inventors of evil, faithless, heartless, and ruthless. Left to our own devices—and that’s the key phrase—we refuse to submit to God’s rule and are quick to blame others for our problems and the problems of the world, rather than acknowledging that we too are every bit as enslaved to Sin’s power as those we blame and rail against. It started with Adam and Eve and has continued unabated ever since. No wonder St. Paul talked about the futility of self-help in Romans 7! Try as we might, the human race does not have the power to fix itself from our sin-sickness and all that alienates us from God and each other.

That’s the bad news, of course, and to our detriment we avoid talking about it like the plague. After all, who wants to talk about God’s judgment on our sins? But St. Paul has also proclaimed the gospel boldly to us in this letter, reminding us that to truly be Good News for us, we have to see what he teaches as the power of God working on our behalf to heal us and reconcile us to himself and to each other. Hear him now from previous chapters in Romans:

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory (Romans 5.2)

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners (Romans 5.6)

[S]hould we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, (Romans 6.2-5, 6a-9b).

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins (Romans 8.1-2, 4).

And then from last week’s epistle lesson, perhaps this most remarkable statement of all: “For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone” (Romans 11.32).

In all these statements St. Paul reveals to us the character and power of God. The operative agent is Christ, not us. In Christ’s death and resurrection, we are freed from God’s terrible but just judgment on our sins and are promised healing, reconciliation, and new life forever in God’s new heavens and earth by virtue of what Christ has done for us. Here’s what this means for us as Christians. It means that our broken minds, bodies, and relationships will be restored, partially in this life and fully in the age to come. It means God is our friend and lover, not our enemy, so that we really do have nothing to fear, not even death and dying. We have these gifts and promises, not because of who we are, but because of who God is made known supremely to us in Christ. Christ died to free us from our sins and draw us to him so that on the last day he can raise us up to everlasting life, complete with new bodies, to live in a world where there will be no more tears or suffering or injustice or fear or alienation. All that was broken will be made new. Christ keeps us united to him by the power of the Holy Spirit who makes Christ known to us. We deserve judgment and death. Instead those of us who have a relationship with Christ get mercy, pardon, and life. This is the kindness of God and the power of God at work in his world and our lives to save us from ourselves and to free us from our slavery to the power of Sin, thanks be to God! Amen?

This is why the therefore is there for. St. Paul wants to remind us again that we aren’t transformed by our power—if that were the case, he would be laying a supreme guilt trip on us in a most cruel way because we are bound to fail—but by the power of God. He reminds us that we already are new creations, people who have God’s image restored in us by virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. Yeah, I know. If you’re like me it doesn’t feel that way very often. I still am conformed to the ways of the world more than I want to be. I still get discouraged and frustrated and angry more than I want to be, but as St. Paul reminds us here, it isn’t about me. I can’t raise myself from the dead. I cannot heal my sin-sickness. Only Christ can (and does) do that in me by the power of the Spirit, and he does that in you as well. Don’t rely on your feelings as a valid basis to judge if Christ is working in you to renew your mind and transform you into the image-bearer God created you to be so that you can run his world on his behalf. Feelings in this matter are notoriously fickle and unreliable because like us, our feelings are weighed down and distorted by our sin-sickness. Instead, St. Paul encourages us to let God renew our mind so that we can think rightly and faithfully about our new status before God and what that means for the living of our mortal days with all of its flaws, imperfections, sorrows, injustices, and evil. 

So how do we do this? If St. Paul is talking about the power of God at work in us by virtue of our relationship with our crucified and risen Lord, does this mean we can just kick back, act snotty, and wait for the Lord to fully heal and transform us? I don’t think so (unless you are an incorrigible slacker like Carl or Father Bowser or my wayward Methodist friend who is with us today). No, God thinks too much of us not to make us invest in his great love and mercy for us so that we can slowly be healed and transformed by Christ in the power of the Spirit. God expects us to put in our sweat equity and God will do the rest. What does that look like? It starts with worship, reading and studying Scripture, and regular partaking in the eucharist—there’s more to it than these things, but not less, and I am only going to focus on Scripture today because of time constraints. As Christians, we should be able to retain chunks of Scripture to help us in the living of our days. We should memorize and rehearse snippets from the psalms, from Proverbs, from the prophets, and from the gospels and other NT writers. As we have already seen today, there is a rich treasure of wisdom and Truth in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. How much of it can you pull up right now to reflect on? Then of course there is 1 Cor 15 and Rev 21.1-7 that talk about Christ’s resurrection and the promised new world. This should be stuff we think about, talk about, and rehearse every day. That’s our sweat equity. We see it at work in our gospel lesson. St. Peter clearly knew enough of his Scripture and had seen enough of his Lord to declare him God’s promised Messiah. Christ commends him by telling him that he didn’t come up with this revelation on his own. He did so by the power of God. This is what transformation looks like when God renews our minds. It’s not necessarily spectacular or sexy. It’s just real and good and healthy and wholesome; we see reality much more clearly. But as we will see next week, St. Peter quickly reverted back to the mindset of the world when he denied that his Lord would have to suffer and die. Whoever heard of a crucified Messiah?? This earned him a sharp rebuke from Christ and this poignant story reminds us that until Christ returns to finish his saving work, we must get used to living in a messy world where things are not always cut and dried, much as we would like them to be. 

So we read Scripture and worship God together and feed on our Lord’s body and blood together to open ourselves to the power of God. God will take our sweat equity and use it to further heal and transform us by renewing our minds. Here are two quick examples of how God’s transformational power might work. I’m sure you will find many parallels in your life to which you can apply this dynamic. I have a friend whose father effectively disowned him when he left home to attend college at an out of state university. Sadly, he and his dad never reconciled and his father has since died. It’s as sad a story as you will ever hear because reconciliation and redemption are no longer possible. My friend has carried his heavy burden very well but you can see the hurt bubble up from time to time and anyone with an ounce of compassion and empathy, themselves gifts from God, understands the underlying pain that continues to roil just beneath the surface and can never be adequately resolved. How can God heal that deep and awful hurt? Well, since both father and son were (and are) Christian, despite their breach, God can use the promise of full healing and restoration at the renewal of all things made possible only by their relationship with Christ who was crucified and raised from the dead to give my friend real hope (expectation) and promise. By an informed faith he can meditate on the love, mercy, and power of God made known in Christ along with God’s promise to restore all things to himself for those who are in Christ. The unresolved conflict becomes a season of hurt rather than a permanent failure with its accompanying hurt, allowing God to bear the brunt of the pain on behalf of my friend. How that will happen is not up to us or in our power. But it is in God’s power made known supremely in Christ’s death and resurrection and God will use that knowledge to transform and heal my friend if my friend will let God do so. I’m not talking about a quick fix solution. I am talking about my friend reminding himself in a sustained way about the love and power of God made known in Christ and letting God start to bring about real, if only partial, healing in this mortal life. Complete healing will have to wait for God’s new world, but what a blessed hope and promise to anticipate! What hurts, heartaches, and sorrows in your life do you need to let God begin to heal (transform) by the renewal of your mind?

Or consider our upcoming elections—and you are going to hear a lot from me on this topic in the coming days because the Church needs to be bold in our leadership by living out the high standards of our gospel proclamation. Our nation is torn apart by bitterness, division, and rancor. We are quick to condemn our enemies and love to play the blame game. There are people on both sides of the divide who truly loathe their enemies and are ready to call them all kinds of vile things, sometimes even wishing for their death! This is being conformed to the ways of the world where we look to our own false righteousness instead of God’s to justify our darkened thinking and behavior. So how can the power of God renew our minds so that he can begin (or continue) to transform us back into his full image-bearers again? Consider this. What would it look like the next time we are ready to lambast our favorite political enemy if instead we reflected first on the reality that Christ died for that person too, whether he/she believes or accepts that fact or tries to live by it? What if we stopped and remembered that we too are sinners unworthy of Christ’s love but who enjoy it anyhow and have therefore been made into new creations, warts and all, because of our relationship with our crucified and risen Lord? If Christ has forgiven us, why can we not forgive our enemies in the power of the Spirit and speak kindly and/or gently about them (or simply remain quiet)? To be sure, this isn’t easy to do. But if we resolve to reflect on Christ’s love for our enemies and his command to us to forgive those who mistreat us, then we may find ourselves less willing to engage in ad hominem attacks on those whose views/behaviors disgust us. If we get to that place, we will know that God is indeed transforming us by renewing our minds. Can you imagine how differently our country would look if Christian voters resolved to open themselves to the transformative power of God to renew their minds? Can you imagine what this little parish might accomplish if we all availed ourselves to the power of God made known to us in the death and resurrection of Christ? 

This is what it means to offer our bodies, i.e., our entire selves, as living sacrifices to God. For you see, my beloved, our transformation must always lead to changed behavior, speaking, and thinking and that takes place within the framework and context of our bodies. It must mirror what we already are and what we will fully become when Christ ushers in God’s new creation. God gave us bodies and intends to raise them from the dead one day. He therefore calls us to use our bodies in his service and service to others. When we do, we are assured that we are seeing the fruit of our transformation, the power of God at work in us so that we can live to become the fully human beings that God created us to be, the people we already are because we are united with Christ. This isn’t about self-help. This is about the power of God at work in us. Rejoice and be thankful for God’s great gifts and mercies he showers on you. It may not feel like you are making any real progress. In fact, sometimes you may feel like you are actually regressing! But don’t be afraid or get discouraged. That’s your fallen self trying to prevent God from transforming you by renewing your mind. God is greater than your fear and doubt. So let us encourage each other and remind each other that we are already new creations, even when that reality is hidden from our sight. Let us also read Scripture together and serve and worship the Lord together, rejoicing that we love and serve such an amazing, generous, kind, and loving God. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever. 

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

Dr. Jonathon Wylie: He Will Not Leave You or Forsake You

Sermon delivered on Trinity 10A, Sunday, August 16, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Dr. Wylie was trained at Wisconsin. He therefore doesn’t believe in sharing his written manuscripts. He’d rather make you listen to him actually preach his sermon (you have our condolences). To do that click here.

Lectionary texts: Genesis 45.1-15; Psalm 133; Romans 11.1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15.10-28.

Father Santosh Madanu: Righteousness that Comes from Faith

Our preaching series on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans continues. Sermon delivered on Trinity 9A, Sunday, August 9, 2020 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: Genesis 37.1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105.1-6, 16-22; Romans 10.5-15; Matthew 14.22-33.

Kenyan runner Abel Mutai was only a few meters from the finish line, but got confused with the signs and stopped, thinking he had finished the race. A Spanish man, Ivan Fernandez, was right behind him and, realizing what was going on, started shouting to the Kenyan to keep running. Mutai did not know Spanish and did not understand.  Realizing what was going on, Fernandez pushed Mutai to victory. A reporter asked Ivan, “Why did you do this?” Ivan replied, “My dream is that one day we can have some sort of community life where we push ourselves and help each other win.” The reporter insisted “But why did you let the Kenyan win?” Ivan replied, “I didn’t let him win, he was going to win. The race was his.”   The reporter insisted and asked again, “But you could have won!” Ivan looked at him and replied: “But what would be the merit of my victory? What would be the honor of this medal? What would my Mother think of it?” The values are transmitted from generation to generation. What values do we teach our children.

The values must be transmitted from one generation to the next.  People must speak of my good story of life.  Our value system should be part of history.

God the Father loved us and transmitted the eternal values thorough His son Jesus.  The heavenly values are love, joy, Justice, righteousness, faith, kindness, trust and peace.  This is what we are seeing in the letter of St.Paul to Romans.

ROMANS 10.   

As we look at Romans 10 verses 5-15, we must remember how they relate to the rest of the chapter. Note the abundance of connecting words with which Paul links one thought to another: 

Throughout chapters 9-11, Paul talks about the salvation of Israel and the broadening of the plan of salvation to include Gentiles. Israel’s unbelief is a problem (9:30-33), but Paul expresses his “heart’s desire and my prayer…that they may be saved” (10:1). “For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness” (10:3), and have failed to understand that “Christ is the fulfillment of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (10:4).

ROMANS 10:5.  THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE LAW

5For Moses writes about the righteousness of the law, “The one who does them will live by them.”

“For Moses writes about the righteousness of the law“ where Paul spoke of his “heart’s desire and prayed  to God for (his fellow Israelites) that they might be saved,” and their “ignorance of the righteousness of God,” preferring to establish their own righteousness.

In this verse, Paul sets up a contrast between “the righteousness of the law” and “the righteousness which is of faith” (v. 6).

“The one who does them will live by them“ (v. 5b). Paul paraphrases Leviticus 18:5, where Moses said, “You shall therefore keep my statutes and my ordinances; which if a man does, he shall live in them: I am Yahweh.” Israel staked its salvation on keeping God’s ordinances, and Israel’s devotion to God’s law, while far from perfect, distinguished Israel from other nations but if they failed to keep the commandments, there is punishment with death when  as in the new testament we have Jesus Christ who took our failurs and sins on the cross. Jesus Christ made us righteous with forgiveness and love.

There were, however, two problems related to Israel’s keeping God’s law:

• The first was their frequent failure to do so. The law demanded a high standard of obedience, which Israel largely failed to achieve.

• That, in itself, would not have been fatal had Israel been able to appreciate the role of faith in salvation—but they did not. Paul said that Israel “didn’t arrive at the law of righteousness…Because they didn’t seek it by faith, but as it were by works of the law. They stumbled over the stumbling stone” (9:31-32). The law, which had been intended as a help and guide, became a stumbling stone when Israel came to rely on it rather than faith—when they sought to establish their own righteousness and failed to submit to God’s righteousness (10:3).

ROMANS 10:6-8.  THE RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH IS OF FAITH

6But the righteousness which is of faith says this, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down);7or, ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.)” 8But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart;” that is, the word of faith, which we preach:

“But the righteousness which is of faith“ (v. 6a) contrasts with “righteousness of the law” (v. 5a). Paul spoke earlier of “righteousness which is of faith” (9:30) and “God’s righteousness” (10:3).

“Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down); or, ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.) ‘But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart’“ (vv. 6b-8). Paul alludes to Deuteronomy 30:11-14, where Moses exhorted the Israelites to obey Yahweh’s commandments—commandments that were neither too difficult nor too remote to observe. Those commandments were nearby, in their mouths and in their hearts. Yahweh had made those commandments accessible so that the Israelites could, without difficulty, know and obey them.

Moses emphasized that, when God commanded observance of the law, he was not requiring the impossible. The law was not distant from Israel (in heaven or beyond the sea), but was, instead, present with them (“in your mouth, and in your heart”).

“Don’t say in your heart“ (v. 6) alludes to Deuteronomy 9:4, where Moses warned Israel, “Don’t say in your heart, after Yahweh your God has thrust them out from before you, saying, ‘For my righteousness Yahweh has brought me in to possess this land;’ because Yahweh drives them out before you because of the wickedness of these nations.”

Moses was warning against a presumptuous attitude on Israel’s part—assuming that they had achieved personal excellence. This allusion reinforces Paul’s emphasis on“righteousness which is of faith“ (v. 6) rather than “righteousness of the law“ (v. 5)—and reinforces that true righteousness is a gift of God rather than something earned.

Just prior to these verses in Deuteronomy, however, Moses spoke of curses that would result from sins (Deuteronomy 27:11-26) and blessings that would result from obedience to God’s law (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). He warned Israel of the consequences of disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). He clearly expected Israel to disobey and to suffer the consequences. But Deuteronomy 30 says that Israel will return to God—and the Promised Land .

Paul omits the last few words of the Deuteronomy quotation—”that you may do it” (Deuteronomy 30:14). He wants to emphasize righteousness achieved by faith rather than righteousness achieved by observing the law, and “that you may do it” falls too heavily on the side of righteousness achieved by observing the law.

Paul reinterprets these verses from Deuteronomy to speak of Christ rather than commandments, asking: “‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down)” (v. 6) and “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.)” (v. 7). In doing so, Paul reveals a hidden layer of meaning to these verses from Deuteronomy that could be understood only after the resurrection.

The parallel between the Deuteronomy 30 wording and Christ’s experience (his ascension into heaven and descent into the abyss—see Ephesians 4:9-10) certainly encourages such a reinterpretation. The more significant parallel is between the commandments and Christ as God’s means of life-giving grace. Christ’s coming did not abolish the commandments, but instead brought them to their highest fulfillment (Matthew 5:17)—making God’s grace accessible in ways that it had not been previously.

“‘The word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart;’ that is, the word of faith, which we preach“ (v. 8). Just as the commandments were not “too far away,” but were “in your mouth, and in your heart” (Deuteronomy 34:11, 14), so also, Paul assures these Roman Christians, the word of faith is near—”in your mouth, and in your heart” (v. 8). Paul notes, “we proclaim” this “word of faith” (v. 8).

ROMANS 10:9-13.  CONFESS, BELIEVE—BE SAVED

9that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (kurion—from kurios), and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11For the Scripture says, “Whoever (Greek: pas—all, everyone) believes in him will not be disappointed.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich to all who call on him. 13For, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

“that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (kurion—from kurios), and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved“ (v. 9). In verse 8, Paul said, “The word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart.” Now he tells us what that means in practical terms. The word on our lips (v. 8) means confessing that Jesus is Lord (v. 9). The word in our heart (v. 8) means belief in the resurrection (v. 9). One oddity: The order seems backwards. One must believe before one can confess. Paul’s adopts the confess/believe order because Deuteronomy 30:14 puts “mouth” before “heart”: “But the word is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it” (Deuteronomy 30:14).

The word kurios is used thousands of times to refer to God in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament). While the word kurios does not always refer to God, Paul clearly intends its use in this verse to place Jesus on the same level as God.

Today, confessing Jesus as Lord with one’s lips is often limited to a worship setting in a church sanctuary. We invite people to confess their belief that Jesus is Lord as a part of the baptismal rite or the recitation of the creed, but that is pretty much the end of it. We hesitate to announce that Jesus is Lord in other settings lest we offend someone. We are conscious—overly so—that we live in a multicultural world where people have differing beliefs, and are sensitive—overly so—about stepping on someone else’s religious toes.

When we read this verse about “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord,” we should remember the setting in which Roman Christians did so. Rome considered Caesar to be Lord, and required its citizens and subjects to say, “Caesar is Lord.” To proclaim Jesus as Lord was to invite charges of disloyalty or treason, for which the penalty was death. It is likely that some of the Christians to whom Paul wrote this epistle knew Christians who had died for confessing that Jesus is Lord—and yet they continued their public proclamation—and so the church prospered, even as it was nurtured by the blood of the saints.

“believe in your heart” (v. 9b). Both Old and New Testaments use the word, heart, to refer to the core of the person.  When Paul talks about believing in your heart, it is clear that he means something greater than mere intellectual assent. Heart belief is a wellspring at the core of our being, and determines not only what we think but also how we act and the direction that our life will take.

“that God raised him from the dead” (v. 9c). Faith in Christ and belief in the resurrection are essentially synonymous.

“you will be saved” (v. 9d). We are saved by the grace of God, =but our faith and confession of that faith are essential components of that salvation.

“For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation“ (v. 10). Paul reverses the order of verse 9, putting belief before confession—a more conventional order.

In verse 10, Paul uses two words, justified and saved, that, while having different meanings, are nevertheless related. Justification is the process by which a person is counted as righteous and brought into a right relationship with God. Salvation comes about as a result of justification, and involves deliverance from sin and punishment.

“Whoever (Greek: pas—all, everyone) believes in him will not be disappointed“ (v. 11). A literal translation from the Greek would be: “All who believe in him will not be put to shame.” In this case, the literal translation seems preferable, because “All” highlights the inclusive character of God’s saving action. The idea is that everyone who believes in Jesus will be saved—both Jew and Gentile.

This allusion to Isaiah 28:16 (cf. Joel 2:26) was more fully developed in Romans 9:33, where Paul quoted it this way: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and a rock of offense; and no one who believes in him will be disappointed.”

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich to all who call on him“ (v. 12). Earlier, Paul said: “For there is no distinction, for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (3:21-23). In chapter 3, the “no distinction” was our sin. In chapter 10, the “no distinction” is God’s grace.

“Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved“ (v. 13). Paul alludes to Joel 2:32, “Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The original context was “the great and terrible day of Yahweh” (Joel 2:31), and those saved were to be from “Mount Zion and in Jerusalem” (Joel 2:32). In Romans, however, “Everyone” takes on a broader character, because “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich to all (Jew and Gentile) who call on him” (v. 12).

To call on the name of the Lord implies a call for help—a call for salvation, whether temporal salvation (being saved from immediate perils) or eschatological salvation (being saved for eternity).

In its original context, “the Lord” would have meant YHWH, but Paul reinterprets “Lord” to mean Jesus—a fact made apparent by his “Jesus is Lord” language in v. 9.

ROMANS 10:14-15.  HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in him whom they have not heard? How will they hear without a preacher? 15And how will they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Good News of peace,
who bring glad tidings of good things!”

The four questions in these verses explain why it is necessary to preach the gospel. Paul has just said, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” That is a wonderful promise, but many people have not called on the name of the Lord. In some cases, they have refused to do so because they are in rebellion against the Lord. In other cases, they have neglected to do so because they were consumed by other concerns. But in many cases, they have not called on the name of the Lord because they know nothing about the Lord. They need someone to tell them.

The four questions in these verses are progressive and deal with what is needed if people are to call upon the name of the Lord (v. 13):

• The first requirement is that they believe (v. 14a).
• But they cannot believe in the Lord unless they hear about him (v. 14b).
• And they cannot hear about the Lord unless someone proclaims him (v. 14c).
• And no proclamation can be made unless the proclaimer is sent (v. 15a).

“And how will they preach unless they are sent?“ (v. 15a). Sent by whom? By God! The church is also involved in the sending. It ordains people to various kinds of ministry and provides them with resources—but it simply acts as the agent of God, who called the people to ministry in the first place. It is God who calls and sends, and it is God who empowers.

Today, we sometimes hear stories of people who happen to pick up a bible—perhaps a Gideon bible in a hotel room—and by reading it are brought to belief and salvation. Paul does not talk about the possibility of reading the word, but instead focuses on hearing the word. The reason is simple. While some people in that time were literate, most were not—and those who were literate had limited access to reading material. Almost without exception, if they were to know Christ, it would be because someone told them. Even though we now live in a world where literacy and reading materials are common, most people still come to Christ because someone told them.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Good News of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (v. 15b). Paul alludes to Isaiah 52:7, which says: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”

In its original context, Isaiah was talking about the messengers who brought news of release from Babylonian captivity—and the joy of those who received that news from the messenger. Everything about those messengers would seem wonderful to the people who received the good news from them.

Even the messengers’ feet—a part of the body not usually considered beautiful—would seem beautiful because of the good news that they brought. Those feet were, after all, the feet that carried the messenger across miles of roads so that they could deliver the good news.

Of the Justification of  man

Gerald Bray commentary on justification of man as follows:

The fundamental question of Christian theology is justification by faith.  No one is righteous in the sight of God with their works but purely by the faith in Jesus Christ.

Luke 23:4343 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Christians have hope in Jesus Christ to have justification based on His mercy and grace.  The doctrine of predestination and purgatory may mislead the believers and have false hope in God.  What are we suppose to say about the fate of those whom we know have never heard the Gospel? The Apostle Paul told the Athenians that God has over looked the time of ignorance ( Acts 17:30).

Romans 1:18 and 2:16 speaks about Pegans have turned away from God and although they will not be judged by  a law they have never heard of.  

As good Christian our duty is to preach the Gospel.  so that those who hear it will have a chance to believe and repent.  Our job is to sow the seeds of the Gospel whenever we can and not to choose or reject the ground it falls on in advance ( Mathew 13:3-8). 

Martin Brucer and Archbishop Cranner explained in most balanced manner, the election and predestination are the part of eternal plan of God for our redemption.

God in His eternal wisdom would rescue and restore His creatures- human beings in and through the cross of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit works in due season to bring about conversion.

Romans 8: 38-39  The elect obtain everlasting happiness by the mercy of God.

The benefit of our election are great:

  The Holy Spirit mortifies the works of flesh( Romans 8: 13), 

The Holy Spirit turns our minds to higher things ( 8:5)

The Holy Spirit establishes and confirms our faith in eternal salvation. ( Romans 8:16)

It is still axiomatic for some Protestant writers that the principle of justification by faith was ‘discovered’ or ‘ rediscovered’ by the Reformers. This often implies that the important principles expounded by Paul about the truth of salvation were overlooked or misunderstood by most of the early and medieval Church until Luther, meaning that not until the sixteenth century was Paul’s teaching about the imputation of the righteousness of God to the sinner by faith properly interpreted and integrated into Christian history.

 Justification:

The Anglican believes that justification means to be accounted as righteous by God. The basis for it is the work of the Lord Jesus, especially his death. It is not based on how good we are, or on what we do. The way we receive justification is by faith in the work of Christ.

Proclaiming  the Gospel of Christ

How one can take the Gospel of Christ to many especially to the unknown?

As St. Paul says one can take the Gospel of Christ when the missionaries are sent.  It is the every Christian responsibility to share the salvation in Christ Jesus.  This is where the Church is so important.  That is what Jesus did.  he chose 12 apostles and sent them to whole world to proclaim Good News.

What is church? Why Church?

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”… Mathew 16:17-19

Jesus is the head of the church.   And all the believers are  part of the church.

We have visible church and invisible church.

?All the Baptized are considered as visible church.

? In Invisible church true believer who truly believe in Christ as the head.

Paul being a good Jew, know THORAH  and practiced all the commandments sincerely speaking his fellow Jews and Romans that only righteousness of faith in Christ will save us.

Gospel Reflection:

[25] And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them (which means about 4 am, which means they had been battling this storm for about 6 hours… you know what that means, Jesus did not come immediately—he let them fight the storm for most of the night before he came!) 2 , walking on the sea. [26] But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. [27] But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 

Jesus doesn’t come immediately. And then when he does come, he comes strolling by at a distance so close they can see him and hear him

But does he come right up to them and hop in the boat and say, “It’s OK, I’m here to save you!”? No. Mark 6:48, a parallel account of this, adds: “He meant to pass by them.” How odd! They’re struggling for their lives… “I’ll see you on the other side.” 

  • To get his help, they have to call out. 2 John MacArthur, Matthew 8–15,  • QUICK LESSON: Never overlook human initiative in gaining the help of God as you struggle. HE’S THERE TO HELP BUT YOU GOT TO ASK… • And I love this… they don’t even cry out in faith, they cry out in fear. Which is bad faith. But JESUS answers them. Do you know what that shows you? God is a compassionate father who responds to his children when they call upon him. “…Call upon me in the day of trouble, he says, I will deliver you, and you will glorify me.”

[28] And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” [29] He said, “Come.” Notice, Jesus did not fix the disciples’ problem by making the storms go away. He just gave Peter another command. “Come.” 

You’re in difficulty? Maybe you should Stop asking God for to fix the situation, and start asking him what his command is. NOTHING WRONG with asking him to fix the solution, BUT FIRST ask him what his command is! 

Stop demanding and start listening! So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. [30] But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” [31] Jesus immediately reached out his hand (he’s always close, in difficulty) and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Why is this story in there? You should always ask that. 3 Psalm 50:15 This story is not in there to inspire us to actually walk on water. (In Acts, when Paul is in a shipwreck, it never occurs to Paul to get out of the boat and start strolling to shore.) This story is to show us how to continue what we start in faith.  Because that’s going to be one of the biggest problems for Christians. 

So here’s the lesson: (A) Initial faith is not enough. We need staying faith. When Jesus said to Peter at the end, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” he is not talking about the intensity of Peter’s faith, but its duration. Peter’s faith, when it started, was very strong (he was the only one who got out of the boat). It just didn’t last long. Initial faith is not enough, we need sustaining faith… (B) We find staying faith at the same place we found initial faith. Where did Peter’s initial faith come from? 2 places: 1. A vision of Jesus. Vs. [27] But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” when Jesus says, “Take heart, it is I,” in Greek that is ego eimi. “I am.” Which was the name of God. “Don’t be afraid; I am.” Peter saw that the Great “I am” was standing on top of everything that terrified him. 2. Jesus’ command. Peter figured that it was more important to obey Jesus’ command than to focus on the circumstances. The Great I AM is on top of those waves, what he is said is larger than the waves rising up against me. He focused not on what he had walk through, but whom he was walking to. Write this down: Peter is not so much walking on water as he is walking on the promises of God; he’s not so much standing on the waves as he is standing on the character of Jesus. It was when he dafraid, and beginning to sink he cried out… Focus on the WORD and you’ll walk on water. Focus on the waves and you’ll wallow in weakness.

 You see, let me give you… A little secret to this passage The point of this passage is not to demonstrate the greatness or weakness of Peter’s faith. The point is to demonstrate the greatness of God’s grace. 

Jesus is always close. When you call out to him, even if it’s in fear for from a lack of faith, he helps. Ps 94:18, “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your steadfast love, O Lord, supported me.” Our God is a God who will always be there to catch us, pick us back up, and lift us on top of the waves. 

In this story Peter may have failed at what he set out to do, but Jesus succeeded in proving exactly what he wanted to prove.”5 That he is always trustworthy. HOW MUCH MORE should we see this on this side of the cross? There we see Jesus not only came to us in the storm, he took into himself the storm of God’s wrath; he not only walked on top of the waves, but soared over sin and death in the resurrection; not only did he lift us up on top of the waves, he filled with the power of resurrection life; and I know that if he reached all the way down to hell to rescue me from my sin, I know he’ll help me when I stumble. If he reached out to save me when I was his enemy, certainly he’s reach out to help me now that I’m his son. You see, I’LL SAY IT AGAIN: ultimately, GOD’S PURPOSE in the Christian life is to teach you to trust him.  In Peter’s first letter to the church, 1 Peter, he writes to Christians going through their own storms and he says this: 1 Peter 1:6, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials [STORMS], so that the tested genuineness of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Proverbs 10:2

Ill-gotten treasures ,have no lasting value,
    but righteousness delivers from death.

Dr. Bethany Christiansen: Who are God’s People?

Sermon delivered on Trinity 8A, Sunday, August 2, 2020 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: Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 17.1-7, 16; Romans 9.1-5; Matthew 14.13-21.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight, Oh Lord. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

Good morning, St Augustine’s! And welcome to the month of August, which means you never know who’ll be preaching on a given Sunday. 

You may be wondering how I was blessed with the peculiar joy of preaching for you all today. Well, it turns out that Fr. Kevin had his heart set on someone preaching on the Romans passage from today’s lectionary, and lo and behold, no one wanted to preach on these meager verses. I think I was his fifth or sixth choice. And why did I say? Well, being the overeducated nincompoop that I am, I misread the schedule and thought I was preaching on last Sunday’s verses from Romans. Last Sunday, you’ll remember, we had an excellent sermon from Fr Phillip on how nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. That’s an easy one! I thought. Nothing can separate us from God’s love: even could write a sermon on that. 

Then I found out what I was actually preaching on: five verses from the beginning of Romans 9 that read: 

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. 

And I thought… Hmm. That’s tricky. 

But as I contemplated these verses, I realized that there was something I wanted to talk about buried here, and that something can be summarized in the title of my sermon today: “Who are God’s People?”

Maybe you’ve heard this phrase that the young folks use: “She’s my people.” People here refers to your close circle, including the family members you actually like, your close friends, and maybe people that you feel responsible for but wouldn’t call your friends. And if someone is not to your liking, you say, “He’s not my people,” as in, “I would just as soon ignore him forever.” 

So who are God’s people? Who does God say he cares about? 

Paul says that his heart breaks for “his people,” his own race, the people of Israel. He is so pained by their separation from the risen Lord that he would even be willing to forego his own relationship with Christ if it meant that they would be redeemed.

Are there people in your life who are lost? people for whom you pray with “great sorrow and unceasing anguish”? A loved one, a family member, a dear friend who always comes into your heart when you pray? Perhaps a brother who left the faith; a friend who’s mired in broken relationships; a neighbor who struggles with addiction, feelings of unworthiness, lack of purpose, lack of meaning…? Paul feels that pain, struggles with the same sense of desperation that his people come into relationship with Christ.

In the next verses, we hear Paul’s sense of frustration with his Jewish brethren. He says: Hey guys! YOURS is the adoption as heirs; YOURS is the divine glory. YOU have covenants, YOU received the law, the temple worship and the promises. YOUR lineage produced the prophets, and ultimately, the Messiah.

He’s saying: “You were given EVERYTHING – how are you missing the most important piece, the arrival of the Christ??” You know that thing we’ve been waiting for?? It’s here! Jesus is the Christ, and it’s better than we ever imagined it! We’re reunited with God: the problems of sin, separateness, and sickness have been solved! This is it! and it’s great! What’s wrong with you guys??

The Jewish people were the protagonists of the whole divine story, from Creation through to Paul’s own day: they had the books of the prophets and the words of God himself; they had the laws that pointed toward a God of justice, orderly living, and personal righteousness. And what were they doing with it? They were deliberately holding onto the law – which can only condemn – and refusing to let their understanding of the law be transformed into the person of Christ, who offered salvation rather than judgement. In short, they had their heads buried in the sand. And while Paul was in agony over their lostness, he was also expressing his disgust: you were given everything and still you won’t see. 

Maybe Paul had certain people in mind when he wrote this passage. There must have been men and women whom he loved, whom he prayed for, whom he longed to bring before the throne of glory. 

I can’t help but think of St Augustine in this context. And when I think of Augustine, I have to think of Monica, his mother. She was a Christian woman from North Africa, and she had married a pagan man, Augustine’s father. We don’t know much about his father, because Augustine didn’t write much about him. But Monica looms large in his autobiography, titled Confessions. 

If you haven’t read the Confessions, you really ought to: this book shows Augustine at his most relatable, his most human; and you’ll be impressed with how profoundly familiar Augustine, the fourth-century Christian, will feel. Until he was in his 30’s, Augustine belonged to a cult called the Manichaeans. Fearing for his soul, his mother prayed for him constantly and pestered the Christian priests to refute the false doctrines her son was learning. The priest responded: “Go away. As you live, it cannot be that the son of these tears should perish” (1991: 51). She took these words as prophetic. And indeed, they turned out to be so: her son became one of the greatest fathers of the church. 

Even if Paul had been thinking about a loved one when he wrote the passage we’re looking at, his words apply, not to a person or a handful of people, but a whole race. “My people” he calls them: “The people of my own race, the people of Israel.” 

Is there a group of people who weigh heavy on your heart when you pray or meditate? A group who seem lost, hurting, or struck with a particular misfortune? 

Maybe you think of the service workers who have lost their jobs since the pandemic started; or the children who can’t go to school; or the families of people killed by police. You might think about Christians who are persecuted for their faith around the world; or Syrian refugees; or the people of Hong Kong. Or maybe your heart focuses on family issues: the pregnant teenagers who are scared and alone, or children growing up without fathers, or the unborn infants who have been labeled “unwanted.” 

In short, who does our heart go out to? Where is our heart? 

What about those groups of people who, we sorrow to see, are racing in the opposite direction of truth, love, and God himself? In this category, I see my generation – the millennials – and the generations after me. And while I think some of the criticism leveled against millennials is unfair, I do think that they are lost and running hard in the wrong direction. This generation was handed a world where all the old rules and old promises seemed not to apply anymore. We were handed shards and were told that it was still a pot. Friends, that pot is not holding water. Millennials see the unfairness of the world: its racism, sexism, rising economic disparity, underemployment, stagnating wages, increasing division between cultural values and Christian values… and their response has been: Smash the patriarchy. This generation says, “If it’s old, destroy it. All the old ways – reliance on God, belief in institutions, hope for a better world – all must go out the window.” I see the nihilism and hopelessness of a generation without God, and it breaks my heart. 

We should pray for those people who are on our hearts, no doubt about it. I pray for my generation. But it’s so easy to draw the line there, to say: THESE are the people deserving of my prayers, my compassion, my love. But who are the people towards whom our hearts are not naturally inclined? That is, who do we despise?

That answer is different for every person. We have to search our hearts in order to discover the groups that we villainize, despise, or simply lack any pity for.

Is it along economic lines? When you’re poor, it’s easy to despise the rich. When rich, it’s easy to despise the poor. 

Is it along social lines? When you’re white, it’s easy to villainize those who are brown or black. When brown or black, it’s easy to villainize those who are white.

Is it along political lines? When you identify as Democrat, it’s easy to demonize a Republican. When you’re Republican, it’s easy to demonize a Democrat. 

Is it along religious lines? Do you find yourself disregarding the lives of Muslims, atheists, Jews or Buddhists? 

What about when you watch the news? Do you take sides, and hate everyone on the other side? The graffiti in my neighborhood reads “ACAB,” which stands for “All Cops Are Bad.” In some corners of the media, I see all protesters labeled “anarchists.” Neither group seems to think the other side has any value as human beings, or any right to fair treatment under the law.

Our hearts find natural affinity with some groups, and a natural antipathy for others. And the highly polarized media makes sure that our natural tendencies are hardened, wherever possible, into tribalism and enmity. Brothers and sisters in Christ, is that who God has called us to be? 

I challenge you to meditate this week on whom you have hardened your heart against, and pray for them. Love them. Reach out to them in the Spirit. Even if that group is your enemy, Christ teaches us that we are blessed when people insult us, persecute us and falsely say all kinds of evil against us because of him (Matt. 5:11). Even if the group you despise is actually your enemy – though, so often, those we despise are not our enemies – Christ died to redeem them. Christ died for the perpetrator of injustice. He died for the villain as much as the victim. 

You may protest that you don’t have any enemies. There’s no one you despise. 

If true, that’s great. Sometimes, even if we don’t despise anyone, we stop focusing on people.

That is to say, it’s easy to focus on things over people: a book you loaned out and never got back; a plant that the neighbor promised to water and then let die; the car your kid wrecked. In these cases, the image of Jonah often comes into my mind. No, not Jonah in the whale. Jonah sitting under a plant growing in the desert. Jonah hadn’t wanted to be a missionary to Nineveh. And when people of Nineveh actually repented, he was annoyed. He was kind of hoping to see the fire and brimstone. So after everyone repented, he went to sit in the desert. The sun was hot and burned him; but God caused a plant to grow to provide shade for him. Then God caused the plant to shrivel up and die. Jonah was really upset; He loved that plant. God said to him, “You cared more about that plant than you did about the people of Nineveh.”

How often do we care more about the plant than the people? I find myself doing this a lot. I care more about having a quiet beer on the porch than I do about my friend in crisis who needs a listening ear. Sometimes, we don’t have enemies. We’re just insensate to the image-bearers of God who suffer around us. 

So we ask ourselves: Who are my people? Who are the people on my heart? And who are the people I despise or ignore? 

As fallen creatures, we find it easy to divide the world into “my people” on one side, and “not my people” on the other. But who are God’s people? Does God say to some: “You’re my people, and I look out for you” and to others “You are not my people, and I don’t care for you?”

That’s the central question in the next part of Romans chapter 9. If you have your Bible, you can follow along with me as I read the next verses: 

It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

Here, Paul is dealing with one aspect of the central paradox that the early followers of Christ had to confront: Are followers of Jesus simply a cult of Judaism, or are they something new? And if they are something new, then do God’s promises made to the Jewish people apply to the non-Jewish followers of  Christ? 

Indeed they do: Paul affirms that “it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of promise.” No longer do people need to be ethnically Jewish in order to be included in God’s promise of redemption, reconciliation, and healing. No longer is God’s protection and mercy extended only to a closed community of Israelites living under the law; rather, Gentiles have been welcomed in as children of promise. No longer are God’s people figured in terms of physical descendants, geopolitical nations, or dietary law. The doors are open for all. Christ says: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). That means everyone who stands and knocks, everyone who seeks the Lord will find him. 

Unlike the God of Judaism, our God’s favor is not limited to specific people in specific cities. Unlike the Gods of Hinduism, our God doesn’t need us to please and placate Him in order avoid his wrath or curry his favor. Our God works all things together for our good, even though we’ve done nothing to earn it. Our God washed his disciples’ feet the night before they betrayed him to his death. 

So I ask again: does God say to some: “You’re my people,” and to others “You are not my people”? No, God doesn’t do that. God opened the doors, saying Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). The last I checked, we are all tired and carrying heavy loads. We are all in need of a God of infinite love and infinite power who knows our inmost hearts and says to us, “You are loved. You are exactly as I made you to be, and you are mine.” 

With a God like that, how can we have hearts that harden against anyone? 

Think about those groups of lost souls I conjured in your minds at the beginning of this message: the people that your heart goes out to, those that you pray for, those that you long to bring into the joy of salvation and wholeness. Notice how you feel about that person, or that group of people. That’s how Paul felt about the lost Israelites who didn’t know Christ. That’s how God feels about the lost Israelites still, yes; but that’s also how God feels about the people you love who have strayed from his light. When your heart aches for a friend who moves from one abusive relationship to the next as he looks for love, or for a child who has left the faith, God’s heart aches for them in exactly the same way yours does. When you lament that a group of people has wandered away from God and endures the pain and brokenness that a life without him entails, God laments with you. 

What about the people you despise – those you see on the news who seem intent on destroying something you care about, or those you see as perpetrators of crimes and injustice – How does God feel about them? How about those that you never think about because you, like me, are focused Jonah’s plant instead of God’s image-bearing creatures? How does God feel about them? It turns out that God feels about them the same way he feels about the people we find it easy to love and pray for. 

God loves the lost. He loves the violent, the broken, the destroyers of statues, the despots, the people carrying guns on both sides of a conflict. Can we try to look at these people, not with our own human minds that insist on an “us vs. them” narrative, but with God’s mind? God sees them as his own dear children, lost and wandering in a hostile desert. Like sheep, they fall into crevices, headbutt each other, and refuse to come home. These are people for whom Christ died, whom he calls into his presence for healing in grace. Those we find hard to love are God’s people, too. So let us pray for them, and minister to them. We know that the grace and love we were freely offered has healed us, and shall heal them too. 

in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, amen.

Father Philip Sang: Nothing Can Separate

Sermon delivered on Trinity 7A, Sunday, July 26, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Sang is too busy reading the many books in his bookcase to be bothered with providing a written manuscript of his sermon. To listen to the audio podcast of it, click here. If you would like to see the recording of the entire service, click here.

Lectionary texts: Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105.1-11, 45b; Romans 8.26-39; St. Matthew 13.31-33, 44-52.

Father Philip Sang: The Spirit of Adoption

Sermon delivered on Trinity 6A, Sunday, July 19, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Sang continues his boycott of submitting written manuscripts for his sermons. To listen to the audio podcast of his sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: Genesis 28.10-19a; Psalm 139.1-11, 22-23; Romans 8.12-25; Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43.

The Essence of the Gospel: No Condemnation—The Power of God

Sermon delivered on Trinity 5A, Sunday, July 12, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: Genesis 25.19-34; Psalm 119.105-112; Romans 8.1-11; St. Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23.

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

Well, my beloved, here we are on Zoom—again. If you are like me, while I am always happy to see you in any venue, I am also feeling a bit hollow and disappointed this morning. Today was the day we were to reopen the chapel and reassemble as a parish family, as the beloved people of God. But COVID had other ideas and so here we are, consigned to our virtual meeting for the near future. But I have some Good News for you this morning because as we continue our preaching series on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, today’s passage is a condensed and brilliant summary of the essence of the Good News of Jesus Christ and this is what I want us to look at this morning. If there is anything that can lift us out of our doldrums, our epistle lesson this morning will do it.

As we saw last week, St. Paul left us in a difficult place in his letter. Recall that he wrote:

21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. (Romans 7.21-25, NLT)

For those of us who have pondered carefully the seriousness of sin and the reality of God’s judgment on it, we know where this is leading—to our condemnation. We want to say to St. Paul, “Thanks a lot. Another piece of bad news in the seemingly never ending hit parade of bad news lately. We are so hosed!” After all, we learn to fear condemnation from a very early age, even if we haven’t pondered the seriousness of sin and God’s judgment on it. Whether seeking the approval of our parents and getting none or suffering through the humiliation of being picked last in a neighborhood pickup game or getting turned down for a job or desired relationships—I was turned down 16 times in a row before I got my first date—the message is clear: You’re not good enough. You don’t measure up. You’re not innocent. Guilty!! Guilty!! Guilty!! And so we spend much of our adult lives trying to compensate for this reality as we desperately seek to avoid the condemnation we dread. Throw in God’s condemnation, the mother of all condemnations, especially if we were/are unfortunate to have overly critical and rigid parents, and we are confronted by an ongoing and terrifying reality that we try to tamp down or ignore altogether so that we can just cope. Not good enough. Can’t make the grade. Thoroughly inadequate. Total Loser™. Wretched people we are indeed!

But right when we hit rock bottom with St. Paul, he shocks us with his conclusion to the argument he has laid out in chapters 5-7, a conclusion we didn’t see coming with the help of arbitrary chapter divisions of his letter. Who will rescue us wretches? How can we ever hope to measure up when we’ve been told by the world throughout our lives that we don’t? “Therefore,” St. Paul says as we brace to hear his expected conclusion that we must face the reality that we are consigned to being Losers in everyone’s eyes including our own and God’s, “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (v.1). Wait. What??? Welcome to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Before we look at why St. Paul would draw this astonishing conclusion, it bears repeating that his conclusion would only be meaningful to those of us who take the reality of sin and God’s judgment on it seriously. For those who don’t have an awareness of sin or who reject its reality completely, this wonderful Good News would likely evoke a shrug of the shoulders, their own personal avoidance of condemnation notwithstanding. But for those of us who understand that God will indeed judge our sin and all that is evil in his world that defiles and corrupts it, St. Paul’s conclusion of no condemnation for those who belong to Christ is music to our weary ears and aching hearts.

But what is the basis for St. Paul’s conclusion? How can we who are enslaved by the power of Sin escape God’s just condemnation? The answer, simply put, is that the power of God has freed us from our slavery to Sin where our finite and human efforts inevitably failed. In the following verses, St. Paul lays out a condensed version of the entire gospel of Jesus Christ. We escape God’s just and right condemnation because God the Father sent God the Son, i.e., God became human, to condemn our sin in the flesh instead of condemning us (v.3-4). We need to be very careful with our language here so that we can confront the tired old false teachings that claim God is a cosmic child abuser who punished Jesus on the cross. This is emphatically not what St. Paul is saying. First, we must remember that Jesus was and is God incarnate so anything Christ did on our behalf he did willingly and in cooperation with the Father, not because the Father coerced the Son. Second, St. Paul tells us that God’s terrible condemnation (judgment) fell on our sins, not on Christ. God the Father never condemned God the Son. It was our sins and the evil they produce that was condemned on the cross. And this should make sense to us. If God is a loving God, God must condemn all that is corrupting and death-dealing to his creatures. What loving parent would stand by idly and condone evil being perpetrated against his/her children? The whole story of Scripture is about how God is rescuing his world and us from the ravages of Evil and Sin, and here is a concise statement about how God ultimately chose to do that: by becoming human and dying on our behalf so that he could condemn the real culprit, sin, while sparing us. In other words, despite our fear of not being able to make the grade or measuring up in God’s eyes—who could blame us for thinking that in light of what St. Paul has written in chapter 7 and our own self-condemnation?—God doesn’t see us as we often see ourselves. As St. Paul reminded us back in chapter 5, God loves us so much that at just the right time he became human to die for us, even while we were still God’s enemies (Rom 5.6-8)! This is the power of God at work, my beloved, the only power that can free us from our slavery to the power of Sin. When Christ died for us on the cross, it not only spared us from God’s condemnation, it also freed us from our slavery to Sin’s power (v.2). Sin has been condemned. We who have a real relationship with Christ and believe in the efficacy of his death are not. On Mt. Calvary, God has proclaimed to us in no uncertain terms that we do measure up in his eyes, that we are not the Losers we have been told or think we are (well, the jury is still out on some of you, but I digress), and that we are no longer guilty because it was sin and not us that was pronounced guilty in Christ’s body. This isn’t the work of a cosmic child abuser. This is the work of the living God who loves his children and wants to free us to be the truly human beings he created us to be. No amount of human effort or trying harder is going to free us from our slavery to Sin. Only the power of God can do that. This is why we call it the gospel or Good News of Jesus Christ.

But the gospel is more than just escaping God’s condemnation. We must remember that we are God’s image-bearers whom God created to run the world on God’s behalf, reflecting God’s goodness and glory out into the world and channeling creation’s praises back to its Creator. So God freed us to live accordingly, not to give us an eternal “get-out-of-jail-free” card so that we could continue indulging in our sinful and rebellious ways. This is the contrast St. Paul is talking about in the rest of the passage (v.5-11). When he warns that living according to the flesh produces death, St. Paul is not talking about our physical bodies being bad nor is he talking about a dualistic nature inside of us, an internal good-cop, bad-cop so to speak. That is a Neo-Platonic and gnostic notion. We must remember St. Paul was a Jew and all good Jews believed in the goodness of creation, bodies included, because God is our Creator and the Genesis narratives proclaim in no uncertain terms that all creation prior to the Fall was good and remained good, albeit corrupted, even after our first ancestors’ rebellion in the garden. Rather, what St. Paul is talking about here is who will be our master. Will we serve our fallen nature (the flesh) and the power of Sin or God (the Spirit)? When we set our minds on the flesh, when we trust in ourselves instead of God and act accordingly, we can expect God’s just condemnation. St. Paul speaks elsewhere of what living life according to the flesh looks like. He speaks of lives characterized by sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and others. St. Paul isn’t talking about one-off or occasional sins here nor is he attempting to offer a complete catalogue of behaviors and thinking that cater to our selfish and rebellious nature. Rather we should understand these things as manifestations of enslaved lives to the power of Sin. The apostle declares ominously that those who engage in lifestyles characterized by these kinds of behaviors will not be part of God’s world, either in this mortal life or the world to come, the new creation (Gal 5.19-21). 

But serving our fallen nature (the flesh) is not always about committing egregious sins, and here is where it gets really interesting because we can pander to our rebellious desires in very subtle ways. When, for example, we proclaim Jesus is our Lord and Savior but steadfastly refuse to believe that God really has spared us from his condemnation by becoming human to die for us, we are setting our minds on the flesh by not trusting the promises of God contained in his gospel. We will likely follow a gospel of self-help, making sure, for example, that we read the Bible enough or pray enough or go to church enough or give enough to earn his love and forgiveness while simultaneously pursuing our own selfish interests and being very ugly people, hoping along the way that our good efforts are enough to persuade God to save us despite our ugliness. But as St. Paul has already explained in chapter 7, that ain’t gonna happen. We are incapable of pleasing God if left to our own devices. Don’t misunderstand. Praying, worshiping, giving, service to others, reading the Bible, and other pious activities are all good and necessary things for Christians to engage in, but we are never to engage in these activities with the false belief that doing them will compel God to love us and save us. As we have just seen, God has already demonstrated his love for us and taken care of all that is necessary for us to enjoy life with him in this world and the next.

We also see life lived according to the flesh illustrated in our OT lesson this morning in both Esau and Jacob. The former let his own temporary hunger control his behavior so that he disastrously forfeited his birthright, something from which he apparently never recovered, by giving it to his younger brother Jacob, who being the great deceiver he was, always tried to manipulate people and situations to gain God’s blessing. The beauty of both the old and new testaments is that despite this, God still redeemed Jacob because Jacob was to be the bearer of God’s covenant promises to Abraham, despite himself. God does likewise with us. Or consider the parable of the prodigal son. We see living according to the flesh in both the sons in the parable. While the prodigal’s sins are obvious, his older brother had a sense of self-righteousness that is death-dealing because his focus was on his behavior/power, not God’s. Contrast this mindset with the prodigal who humbly accepted his father’s forgiveness and found new life. So it is possible for us to live according to the flesh while pretending to be pious and spiritual. If you are one who thinks you have to follow the rules to earn God’s forgiveness, or that your right standing before God depends on you doing the right things instead of Christ’s sacrifice for you, you are unwittingly or otherwise living according to the flesh and living a lie, and you should have every reason to fear God’s just condemnation because of your refusal to trust God’s power to rescue you, relying instead on your own folly to get the job done.

Contrast this to living by the Spirit, who frees us to be truly human beings and God’s image-bearers (I see Father Bowser twitching with delight over the mention of the Holy Spirit). Notice carefully what St. Paul is telling us here. He is not telling us that those who have the Holy Spirit living in us will never sin. That won’t happen till after our mortal death (Rom 6.7). No, what St. Paul is telling us is that because we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection, we are given his Spirit who will live in us and transform us over a lifetime to become more and more like Christ. It is the power to live as fully human beings, imperfect and utterly messy as that may look at times, precisely because we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection at our baptism (cf. Rom 6.3-5). The presence of the Spirit allows Christ to dwell within us and unites us to him. In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul put it like this: “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ [who] lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2.20). That’s why those who don’t have the Spirit don’t have Christ. First and foremost, the Spirit reveals to us God’s great love for us so that despite all our feelings and fears to the contrary, we really do believe that we no longer have to fear God’s condemnation because our sins have already been dealt with once and for all on the cross. We live in an Über touchy-feely age and frankly we need to get over that and embrace the objective reality that we have been transferred from the dominion of death into the dominion of God’s Son, in whom we have redemption and the forgiveness of our sins (cf. Col 1.13-20). That same Son lives in us and helps heal and transform us into God’s restored image-bearers who think, speak, and act accordingly if we only let him. When we do, irrespective of how imperfect that might look in our lives, we really will experience peace because we trust God’s promises and great love for us. We no longer feel compelled to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps to escape God’s condemnation. We believe it to be true, despite everything in and around us trying to tell us otherwise. It would take a whole separate sermon to flesh out what these two contrasting lifestyles would look like in our lives, but mercifully I won’t pull a Deacon Wylie on you and keep you till suppertime (well, maybe he didn’t preach that long a couple of weeks ago, but I like my story better so I’m sticking with it).

So let me close with this. If you really believe what St. Paul is telling us here, my beloved, it will change you and free you to live your life courageously and boldly, without fear of God’s judgment, because you trust in the unfailing love and power of God, not your own power or delusions. The NT calls that having real peace. And God knows we need courageous and bold Christians to proclaim a better way of life—a life lived according to the reality of no condemnation because of the love of God made known in Jesus Christ—to the forces of godlessness and lawlessness that swirl around and within us. It will make you want to please God because you realize it’s no more than your humble response to a done deal God has accomplished unilaterally on your behalf. You’ve been freed from your slavery to Sin’s power and your sins have been dealt with forever. Here is the Good News in a nutshell. St. Paul speaks of the saving work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—three in one and one in three, all working together to rescue and heal you so that you are equipped to live as the truly human being you were created to be—reminding us that those who belong to Christ share in Christ’s power and destiny, which is new bodily life at the Resurrection of the dead (Romans 8.11). We did nothing nor can we ever do anything to deserve God’s great gift of life. We only have to accept the gift offered us and believe we are worthy in the God’s sight. God is loving and faithful to his word and God has the power to do the impossible. Embrace the gift along with the hope and promise, my beloved. Let it change you so that you live your life with new power, freedom, boldness, and joy in your Lord Jesus Christ. After all, he lives in you and is your hope of glory (Col 1.27). To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever. 

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