Come and See

Sermon delivered on Epiphany 2B, Sunday, January 17, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

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

Lectionary texts: 1 Samuel 3.1-20; Psalm 139.1-5, 12-17; 1 Corinthians 6.12-20; John 1.43-51.

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

In our gospel lesson Philip responds to Nathaniel’s caustic question about meeting Jesus by inviting him to “come and see.” That invitation still stands for us concerning Jesus. But if we looked at Jesus what would we see? This is what I want us to look at this morning.

We start with our OT lesson. We are told that the word of the Lord was rare in the days of old Eli and Samuel, the days when ancient Israel had no king and everyone did “whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 21.25). And we certainly get how ominous that statement really is. The word of the Lord is rare in our day as well; more and more of us are doing whatever seems right in our own eyes. As our nation increasingly rejects its Judeo-Christian heritage with its strictures, mores, and values, our nation falls ever deeper into chaos. We see it most keenly right now in the political arena and in how we think about and treat those with whom we disagree. Our abandonment of our Judeo-Christian heritage with its accompanying values is the root cause of all our problems because as we abandon God-given ways for thinking, speaking, and acting in favor of our own fallen desires, chaos descends. The word of the Lord is indeed rare in our day and people are increasingly doing whatever seems right in their own eyes, resulting in ever-increasing vitriol, invective, hyperbole, vindictiveness, and demonization that is quite simply breathtaking, and not in a good way. All this makes us very afraid. We look for God’s help and presence but apparently find none. But are we looking in the right places and for the right things? Are we allowing God to take us by surprise and rescue us in unexpected ways as he did in Samuel’s and Philip’s day? This is at the heart of both our OT and gospel lessons this morning. Instead of trying to dictate to God how God should intervene and rescue us, we are called to listen before we speak, to open our eyes and minds so that God can speak to us in the ways God chooses, not how we choose, and to respond accordingly and faithfully. When we do, like young Samuel we will know that God is present with and among us.

And now we return to our gospel lesson with its great existential invitation concerning Christ: Come and see! When you look at Jesus, what do you expect to see? A cosmic Santa Claus to give you your heart’s desires? A mighty warrior who swoops in at just the right moment like a conquering hero to rescue you from all your problems? A Messiah (Christ) who will rid you and this country of all your enemies so that all the chaos conveniently disappears? A bolt of lightning and thunderclap to smite all the evil and wrong in this world and your life? We are promised that indeed one day when the Lord Jesus returns to finish the work he started in his death and resurrection, we will have our expectations of a mighty warrior and conqueror fully satisfied. Just read Revelation 20 with its vivid language if you doubt that. God is indeed God and he will not let fallen humans and/or the powers of Evil and Sin mock him forever. But that is not what our gospel lesson is pointing to today. Here is Christ, God become man, to dwell with his people. So if we come and see, what will we see? St. John has given us hints leading up to our lesson today. He began his marvelous gospel by telling us about the eternal Son of God coming into his world and to his people to dwell or pitch his tent (live) among them as we read on Christmas Eve. St. John reaffirms this glorious truth at the end of our lesson today when he recounts that Christ told Nathaniel (and us) that we would see God’s space (the heavens) open up and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. In other words, we would see heaven and earth coming together in the person of Jesus despite the fact that we don’t particularly want God to dwell with us because we are slaves to the power of Sin that has blinded us to his presence. We hid from God in the garden and we continue to hide from God today, and to our detriment. St. John also reminded us of this sad reality in his prologue when he told us that God’s own people failed to recognize God when he came to live with them as Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, when by God’s grace we do let Christ into our lives, we get glimpses of heaven meeting earth, God’s new world and Presence breaking in on us and the chaos that swirls around us. More about that anon. When you look at Jesus, do you believe this promise?

Come and see, St. John invites us through Philip. So what else do we see in Christ? As St. John has also previously reminded us, in Christ we see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world—our sins, our rebellion, our hostility toward God, our selfishness, our desire to do whatever seems right in our own eyes—and reconciles us to God the Father through his saving death on the cross. Here we see God’s totally unexpected and illogical grace, illogical at least according to the wisdom of the world, in action. Who dies for their enemies so that their enemies can be reconciled to them and find life instead of death? No one I know, no one expect God the Father that is. As St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, at just the right time Christ came into the world to die for us sinners and reconcile us to God (Romans 5.6-11). We use the word grace quite freely and casually, and in doing so I think we miss the astonishing power and reality of God’s love for us behind it. God didn’t wait until we came to our senses and realized we need God if we ever hope to have life—life defined as being more than mere biological existence. We cannot hope to live, either in this age or the age to come, without being reconciled to God and as both Scripture and the collective human experience testify, we are incapable of ending our hostility and rebellion toward God on our own. We remain unreconciled to God and dead in our sins without outside help. That help comes from the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world—your sin and mine—and in doing so overcomes the evil our sin generates. We aren’t told how this all works. We are simply told that it does and are invited to believe it by faith because of the historical reality of Christ’s resurrection and because God promises it is true in Holy Scripture. When you look at Jesus, do you see the Lamb of God who takes away your sins and gives you life? If you do, what difference is it making in how you live and see this world and your place in it?

Come and see, St. John invites us. What else do we see in Christ? In telling us that we will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man, Christ promises us that when we see him we will see the agent through whom God’s promised new world will come into existence, a world made possible by his saving death on the cross and through his mighty resurrection, a world where the dimensions of heaven and earth come together in a mighty new act of creation greater than the act of God’s original creation to heal and restore all things. As St. Paul reminds us in our epistle lesson, our bodies matter greatly to God. We know this because God raised Jesus’ body from the dead and will do the same for ours on the Last Day. In other words, our bodies are part of God’s good creation that God has promised to heal and redeem in and through Christ’s resurrection. So what we do (or don’t do) with our bodies matters to God. Not only that, the Holy Spirit dwells in our bodies and God has paid a terrible price to redeem our bodies from eternal death when he came to die for us and be raised again to new life (Rm 8.3-4). When you look at Christ, do you see the promise of God’s new world embodied, a world where heaven and earth are joined together and all things are made new, a world where death and sorrow and sickness and sighing and all things broken are forever abolished, a world where the powers of Evil, Sin, and Death are banished forever so that they can no longer harm or destroy us as they do now? If you don’t see this in Christ, if this is not your ultimate hope, you have missed seeing Jesus Christ entirely and are most to be pitied. This promise and all that it entails should give us ample reason to hope, even in the most desperate times. It should also motivate us to imitate God’s great love for us, even when we were his enemies, by proclaiming and inviting others to come and see Christ along with us.

Come and see, St. John invites us. What else do we see in Christ? As St. John and the other gospel writers proclaim, when we see Jesus we will see God’s Messiah (Christ) come in power and love and mercy to call us to repentance, i.e., to turn from serving ourselves to serving God and others, heal the sick, mend broken bodies and minds, raise the dead, feed the hungry, provide living water to those who desperately need it (that would be all of us), and to announce the Good News that despite our wickedness, despite all that is desperately wrong in our lives and the world around us, God the Father loves us and demonstrates his love by giving us Christ to show us these signs of God’s kingdom breaking into the midst of the chaos of his world and our lives. But it would be easy for us to miss this because as we have seen, God accomplished it all in a most unusual and unexpected way by dying an utterly godforsaken death in the most cruel and vile manner ever invented by humans. Creatures trying to destroy their Creator. What a travesty! So we need to pay attention to Holy Scripture because in it, God tells us how he has and will accomplish all that God promises. As young Samuel found God’s presence in his day, if we are willing to come and see who Jesus really is, we must start by listening before we start speaking. Only then can we start to think through the truth of these claims, both individually and together. 

When we dare come and see who and what Christ really is, it will require a response from us. Will we choose to limp along, following our own thinking and doing whatever seems right in our own eyes, or will we ask the God who seeks us out, whether we love him or not, to open our eyes so that we can begin to glimpse his glory among us in the person of Christ? Nathaniel cynically asked if anything good could come out of Nazareth. Jesus would end up showing him and the rest of us that everything good could and did come out of Nazareth! God himself came to reconcile us and draw us to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son so that through the Son, God could heal and restore us to be the fully human beings God created us to be. Nothing else can make us fully human, especially not the perversity that comes from doing whatever seems right in our own sinful eyes. May we all, by the grace of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, have our eyes opened to the reality of our crucified and risen Lord and Savior by living out his commandments faithfully, especially as they pertain to our bodies and the bodies of others, through the faithful reading of Scripture together, in our worship, in confessing our sins and experiencing God’s healing forgiveness, in partaking of the Holy Eucharist as a tangible sign of that forgiveness, and in our holy fellowship so that Christ becomes a dynamic and healing reality and Presence to and among us, able to sustain us, even (and especially) in these dark days. When we see Christ, may we be blessed to see the Son of God, the crucified and risen Lamb who takes away the sin of the world along with our own, and may our hope that God really is bringing in his kingdom on earth as in heaven in and through Christ and his people bless and sustain us until to see it realized in full and our blessed Lord and Savior face-to-face. 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 Jonathon Wylie: The Baptism of Jesus, Humble Way to Glory

Sermon delivered on Epiphany 1B (The Baptism of Christ), Sunday, January 10, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Wylie has not changed his stripes for 2021. He’s still a Calvinist and he still refuses to submit manuscripts of his sermons. To listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: Genesis 1.1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19.1-7; St. Mark 1.4-11.

Father Philip Sang: The Wise Seek Christ

Sermon delivered on the Feast of the Epiphany (transferred), Sunday, January 3, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts Isaiah 60.1-6; Psalm 72.1-15; Ephesians 3.1-12; St. Matthew 2.1-12.

I would like to look at the Epiphany story this morning The Readers’ Digest once asked this question: Have you ever imagined what would have happened if there had been three wise women instead of three wise men at the Epiphany? They suggested that if there had been three wise women:

? They would have asked for directions to the stable locally instead of going to King Herod.

? They would have arrived on time and helped deliver the baby

? They would have cleaned the stable and brought food for the family to eat

? And there would have been peace on earth!”

Why did God reveal Jesus to the Magi?

We know the story of the Magi coming to worship Jesus very well.

But have you ever stopped to wonder why God revealed Jesus to the Magi and not the “Good and the Great” personified by King Herod Who were the Magi? Very little is known about the Magi.

Matthew doesn’t even record how many of them there were.

All the Bible tells us is that they came from the East to Jerusalem.

It is generally accepted that “the Magi were a priestly caste from Persia once a mighty country where modern Iran and Iraq are now located. They were probably astrologers In the second century, a church father named Tertullian suggested that these men were kings because the Old Testament had predicted that kings would come to worship the Christ. Tertullian also concluded that there were three kings based on the number of gifts mentioned, gold, frankincense and myrrh.

In the sixth century, someone decided that their names were Melchior, Baltazar and Gaspar. The term Magi is the base from which our modern words “magician” and “magistrate” are derived.

The Magi, in the eyes of the Jewish people to whom Matthew wrote his Gospel , had two strikes against them. – The first strike was that they were Gentiles – Persians to be precise. After all weren’t the Jews alone God’s chosen people?

  • But the second and more important strike was that they were astrologers. And astrology was expressly forbidden in the OT. (Dt 18:9-14) So why did God reveal himself to astrologers?

Here are three of the many reasons you can think of why God revealed Himself to the Magi Firstly God revealed Jesus to the Magi to show us that the Gospel, that Jesus’ birth heralded, is for all nations. It is not just to the select few righteous people in the world. We don’t have to wait until we are living a “morally good life” before God seeks us out. If moral perfection was God’s criteria, I doubt any of us would be sitting in church today.

God accepts us as we are as he did with these Magi.

The second reason – that I think God revealed Jesus to the Magi – was that the Magi were SEEKING God, as best as they knew how.

The Magi sought Christ out to worship him. God honors a spirit within a person that SEEKS God. We won’t get everything right – but if we have a right heart God will honor us.

And God reached out to the Magi – where they were – by a Star. But that wasn’t a chance Star

– God had ordained and it had been prophesied over a millennium earlier by Balaam the prophet when he said – referring to Jesus:

17 “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A Star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel. (Nu. 24:17).

My third reason why God revealed Jesus to the Magi was that they had a number of right attitudes.

Attitude1. They obeyed the leadings of God they were obedient to the guidance of God. They weren’t too big to follow the star. As St. Matthew records them saying, “We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Mt. 2:2) They weren’t star gazers – they put their beliefs into action. And even though they didn’t know the destination they were prepared to step out in faith. Following the leading of the Lord can be quite risky and it can be time consuming. The Magi probably had to go from Persia to Jerusalem – a journey of a good over 1000 miles – on foot and travelling with camels.

It could well have taken several months. But they persevered over dangerous territory too – with maybe bandits along the way. I wonder if I would have been prepared to follow a star for so long?

Attitude 2 – They sought Jesus for the right reasons “to worship him” (Mt. 2:2).

It’s quite a challenge isn’t it? Do I come to church to worship Jesus – or for some other reason? Attitude 3 – They gave Jesus of the very best that they had.

They bought costly gifts to Jesus

? Gold

Gold indicated Kingship. What is more fitting than gold for a King!

If Jesus is to be the King in my life, then I am challenged by the thought: What gold can I bring to Jesus today?

What do I hold onto as precious that I can give to the Lord?

? Frankincense

Frankincense was an ingredient used by the priests in temple worship to blend with the smell of the sacrifices. Frankincense was brought to symbolise worship.

If we wish to worship God, Jesus wants us to offer up our lives as a sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Rom 12:1).

What is the frankincense that we can offer Jesus today?

? Myrrh

In Jesus’ time, people used Myrrh to embalm their dead. A thoughtless gift, you might say for a baby shower?

Not for this baby. These wise men knew that Jesus was born to die.

Hebrews 10:10 says, “And … we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Myrrh reminds me that Jesus came to die on a Cross – to bring all of us into a new relationship with God. In return Christ expects us to die to our old selfish desires and take on the desires of God.

Paul put it well when he said in Galatians 2:21 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” Attitude 4 – The final attitude that the wise men was that they did what God called them to do. Mt 2:12 “Then being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way” What a challenge to us – simply to do what God wants us to do and not count the cost. If Herod had caught up with the wise men, he would have had their heads.

There are times in life when God calls us – and we must respond – regardless of the cost.

If we want to hear from God we need to come in worship to Jesus rather than in fear. We are challenged to make Jesus Lord of our lives – rather than fear losing control over our destiny. Perhaps all this is to say we allow God to handle our schedule today and everyday As I conclude, the wise men sought Christ taking all the risks included to bring the best to Him. When we think of them and the gifts these wise men brought, it is my prayer that we would seek Christ more and let The Gold remind us to bring to Jesus what we hold precious The Frankincense to remind us to bring Christ our true worship and The Myrrh to remind us to die to self and live for Christ day by day In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Meditations on the Incarnation by Select Church Fathers and Doctors

Meditations read on Christmas 1B, Sunday, December 27, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s mediations, click here.

The following sermon preached by St. John Chrysostom is the first extant Christmas sermon we have. It was preached in Antioch in 386, the same year Augustine became a Christian. Source: http://antiochian.org/node/21955

Behold a new and wondrous mystery.

My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice. And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed; He had the power; He descended; He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God. This day He who is, is Born; and He who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.

And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation [being born of a virgin] I have learned to venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech.  

For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works. 

What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend. 

Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored. O ineffable grace! The Only Begotten, who is before all ages, who cannot be touched or be perceived, who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is visible and liable to corruption. For what reason? That coming amongst us he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that [humans] cannot see. For since [humans] believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears, they doubt of that which they do not see, and so He has deigned to show Himself in bodily presence, that He may remove all doubt.

Christ, finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin, builds for Himself a living temple, and as He had willed, formed there a man from the Virgin; and, putting Him on, this day came forth; unashamed of the lowliness of our nature. 

For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made. Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker. 

What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He who cannot be touched, who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of [humans]. He who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness. 

For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit that He may save me. 

Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been implanted on the earth, angels communicate with [humans] without fear, and [humans] now hold speech with angels. 

Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things are nourished, may receive an infants food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.

To Him, then, who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit, we offer all praise, now and forever. Amen.

—John Chrysostom (d. 407), priest at Antioch and later Archbishop of Constantinople

Now hear this word from St. Athanasius.

The Word of God did not abandon the human race, his creatures, who are hurtling to their own ruin. By the offering of his body, the Word of God destroyed death which had united itself to them; by his teaching, he corrected their negligences; and by his power, he restored the human race.

Why was it necessary for the Word of God to become incarnate and not some other? Scripture indicates the reason by these words: “It was fitting that when bringing many heirs to glory, God, for whom and through whom all things exist, should make their leader in the work of salvation perfect through suffering.” This signifies that the work of raising human beings from the ruin into which they had fallen pertained to none other than the Word of God, who had made them in the beginning.

By the sacrifice of his body, he put an end to the law which weighed upon them, and he renewed in us the principle of life by giving us the hope of the resurrection. For if it is through ourselves that death attained dominance over us, conversely, it is through the incarnation of the Word of God that death has been destroyed and that life has been resurrected, as indicated by the Apostle filled with Christ: “Death came through one person; hence the resurrection of the dead comes through another person also. Just as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will come to life again.”

It is no longer as condemned that we die. Rather, we die with the hope of rising again from the dead, awaiting the universal resurrection which God will manifest to us in his own time, since he is both the author of it and gives us the grace for it.

—Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria (d. 373), On the Incarnation 10.14

And finally, a word from our own St. Augustine of Hippo. 

Awake! For your sake God has become human. “Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” I tell you again: for your sake, God became human.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

…Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but by sheer grace.

—Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (d. 430), Sermon 185

Christmas 2020: The Light Still Shines in the Darkness

Sermon delivered on Christmas Eve 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 52.7-10; The Song of God’s Chosen One (from Isaiah 11); Hebrews 1.1-12; John 1.1-14.

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

Merry Christmas, St. Augustine’s! During this past Advent season we have encouraged you to look into the darkness of this world and our lives with faith in the goodness of God’s justice and power to act on our behalf. Continuing this theme in our gospel lesson tonight, St. John writes that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. But what does that mean for us as Christians living in 2020? This is what I want us to look at this evening.

To say that 2020 has been an awful year is understatement. Each of us comes here tonight with our muted fears, surrounded by a potentially deadly disease that shows no sign of letting up. Those of us who are here are wearing masks and we must distance from each other when in fact most of us long to embrace the other and be embraced. But we can’t do that for obvious reasons. Many of our parish family have stayed away tonight, concerned about their health and/or worried about spreading COVID, just like those of us are who are here. Many if not most of us will forgo our big family Christmas celebrations because of COVID along with many of our long-cherished Christmas traditions because we fear being infected or infecting those we love. Then there’s the larger societal issues that I don’t have the time here to address. During these long, dark days of winter we need most the human touch because we are programed for relationships. But because of this cursed and wicked virus, many of us will be denied that touch along with the fellowship that accompanies it. 

To make matters worse, some of our parish family have suffered the death of family members and friends recently. Others of us have actually been sickened by COVID, although thankfully not to the point where they needed hospitalization. What should be “that most wonderful time of the year” has turned into a living and sustained nightmare where we find ourselves alone, isolated, fearful, angry, depressed, and anxious, tempted to wonder (or wondering) where God is in it all. Put simply, we long with all our being for something better and for our cherished holidays like Christmas to return to “normal.” I suspect that is why so many of us love watching feel-good Christmas movies with all of their sentimental charm. There everything turns out just right. Old relationships are mended and/or new, meaningful ones are forged. Hope is kindled or reborn; everything turns out to be merry and bright, with family and friends gathered together, replete with splendid Christmas trees and dazzling holiday lights ablaze. Who among us doesn’t long for those kind of endings, especially living in the midst of this awful pandemic with its seemingly never-ending stream of bad news and myriad tragedies? In biblical language, we are being afflicted by a darkness that is produced by human sin and other forms of evil that result from living in a world that struggles under God’s just curse. Is it any wonder that we want our Christmases to be merry and bright with all our loved ones gathered around us and all our Christmas decorations blazing bright? But that’s not what most of us are getting this year. This year we are getting the darkness of pandemic and living in fear that we know all too well.

That is why we need to gather as God’s people in Christ and hear God’s word proclaimed and preached, even when lousy preachers like me are preaching. Just when the darkness threatens to overwhelm us and undo us completely, just when our muted fears are most intense and we are on the brink of despair (or have fallen over), we hear these words from St. John in our gospel lesson tonight: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (Jn 1.5). In other words, God’s light, the light of Christ born to us this very night, shines in our lives and on our sins and fears and broken dreams and shattered relationships to heal us and make God’s love and mercy and forgiveness known to us in real and tangible ways. It is the only light that can make a real difference. In proclaiming that God’s light in Christ shines in the darkness of our lives and God’s good but corrupted world, St. John is proclaiming to us the Good News that human beings—you and I in all our unloveliness—matter to God and that God intends, has always intended, even as he cursed his world in response to human sin and rebellion, to heal and restore us to himself. Tonight we celebrate the beginning of that Good News, the only news that has the power to heal our darkened and broken hearts and minds.

Human sin and the evil it has produced have always been the problem. It alienates us from God and each other and causes us to die because we are separated from our only Source of life. So to deal with human sin, God had to become human so that he could take the collective weight of our sin and the evil it produces on himself to judge and condemn our sin in the flesh and spare us from his good but terrible judgment on all the corrupts and despoils us and God’s world. God did this through the cross of Christ so that we no longer have to fear being God’s enemies or being alienated from God, either in this life or in the age to come. As St. Paul boldly pronounced in Romans 8.1, there is now no condemnation for those who have a living relationship with Christ because of what God has done for us in Christ crucified and raised from the dead. How all this works we are not told, and I suspect that is for our own good because I doubt any of us would be able to fully comprehend the power of God the Father at work in his crucified Son. Christmas is a time, therefore, to rejoice that humans matter to God and to be thankful that God has acted decisively on our behalf by becoming human so that he could die for us. As the old Christmas carol proclaims, “I wonder as I wander out under the sky,/ How Jesus, the Savior, did come for to die./ For poor, ornery people like you and like I/ I wonder as I wander/ Out under the sky.” This is what St. John means when he tells us the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not (and cannot) overcome the light. Nothing is more powerful than God the Father whose love is made known to us in a very personal way in Jesus Christ. 

This of course is why Christmas will come this year as it does every year, even in the midst of this cursed pandemic and our muted fears and forced isolation, and this is the way it has always been. Our sentimental expectation that our Christmases will be all merry and bright is a sign of how richly God has blessed us because merry and bright is not the way of the world. If Christmas waited for all to be right with the world to shine Christ’s light on it and us, it would never have come at all. But Christmas came precisely to shine Christ’s light in the darkness. Think about it. Christmas shined its light on Joseph’s unfounded but reasonable suspicion and fear that Mary was an adulterer (Mt 1.18-20). It shined its light on King Herod’s wickedness even as he ordered the slaughter of the innocents in a futile attempt to kill the announced King of the Jews, God’s Messiah or Christ. It came even as Joseph and Mary and the Christ Child fled for their lives to the safety of Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath (Mt 2). And it shines on our Christmases darkened by the threat of COVID or by serious illness. Christ’s light shines on our grief over the death of a loved one as we mourn the fact that our Christmas celebrations will never be the same in this mortal life. Death is the ultimate dehumanizer and darkness, cruelly separating us from our beloved. But the light of Christ reminds us even in our grief that our loved ones who have died in Christ are not lost forever nor is our separation from them permanent, but only for a season. We know this because we know that in Christ Death itself is destroyed and will one day be abolished forever as God has promised. How do we know this? Well, because God has promised it, and because Christ is raised from the dead, confirming that when God dealt with our sin on the cross, God dealt with the ultimate evil of Death as well because the wages of sin is death (Rm 6.23). Destroy the power of Sin over us as Christ did on the cross and its wages are also destroyed, God be praised. The light of Christ shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. 

 But there’s more. Massively important as having our sins forgiven and our relationship with God the Father restored, God has saved us for a greater purpose. God has forgiven, healed, and restored us to himself so that we can once again take our rightful place as God’s image-bearing stewards who will run God’s renewed and healed world: the new heavens and earth. As our Canticle tonight from Isaiah 11 proclaims, God has promised to remove his curse and heal and restore his creation along with us so that there will be no more hostility or alienation or sorrow or sadness or death. In poetic language the prophet proclaims this wondrous announcement to us: the wolf will dwell with the lamb and a little child will lead them into this new reality. They shall not hurt or destroy in all [God’s] holy mountain for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Is 11.6, 9). In other words, God himself promises to dwell with us directly in ways we have never experienced, ways that heal us and make us whole so that we know and enjoy him in new and intimate ways, equipped to be the fully human beings God created us to be. After all, where God is there can be no evil! No wonder the prophet tells us elsewhere for the anxious not to fear because God himself is coming to judge his world and its peoples. Why should we not fear? Because in judging his world, God will destroy all the enemies of his people, enemies that sicken and corrupt and alienate and darken our lives and this world so that all sickness and brokenness and darkness will be healed and dispelled forever. The lame will walk, all of creation will be renewed and healed and made ready for human stewardship over it on God’s behalf. God is coming in judgment, proclaims Isaiah with all boldness. Coming with judgment to save you (Is 35). Not to condemn you but to save you. No wonder all of creation will rejoice (cf. Rm 8.18-25)! My beloved, listen to this glad proclamation and take hope and heart in the midst of the darkness that swirls around us. You are being reminded what God’s heart and love for you really look like. It is the light shining in the darkness and not even the gates of hell or death or COVID can overcome it.

So what are we to do in light of this reality (no pun intended)? Let me suggest the following to jumpstart your thinking this Christmastide and beyond. First, we need to remember who God is and be reminded of God’s love for us made known in Christ. When the darkness of your fear and anxiety and separation from others threaten to overwhelm you, go to Scripture to be reminded that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. Read St. John’s magnificent prologue that we read tonight. Read psalms like Psalm 103, 25, and 91 to be reminded of God’s love for you and his protection and mercy on us even with our sin-stained lives and hearts. Read passages like Isaiah 9, 11, 35, and 43 to be reminded of God’s promise to heal and restore. Be reminded of the promise of new creation contained in Revelation 21-22. Don’t try to do this on your own. Most of us won’t do it because we’re losers and ragamuffins. Get together with some of your parish family members, even if by phone, and read these passages and talk about them together so that you are reminded that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. Take time to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas by remembering God’s love for made known in Christ and revealed in Scripture, in your baptism, in the holy eucharist, and the lives of his people. 

Being so reminded and refreshed, resolve to do your best to shine the light of Christ’s love and hope on others. Let your light be a beacon of hope to others and then tell them why you have that hope. The angels could not keep the Good News of Christ’s birth a secret as we shall be reminded in our dismissal gospel tonight so why should we? You have the Spirit and power of Christ in you, rely on him and proclaim him by your words and deeds. To be sure, we’ll all become afraid from time to time. We’ll all get discouraged. But we have Christ and we have each other. We have the word of God and we have Christ present with us in the Eucharist. Don’t ignore or neglect these precious gifts offered by God to sustain you in this mortal life. We can best avoid despairing over the darkness by worshiping together each Sunday, even if it be in exile from Zoom. These means of grace allow God’s light to shine in the darkness of our lives and this dark old world. We have God’s promise to be with us in Immanuel. That promise is God’s great light. Let it shine on you and those around you in the days, weeks, and years ahead by availing yourself of God’s gifts of light to you.

This is why we celebrate Christmas. God became human to die for us as our epistle and gospel lessons proclaim. This is the light of Christ shining in our darkness, healing us and promising us to make all things new and right in all its ambiguity and mystery and the messiness of our human condition in this mortal life and fully in the age to come. It is the only light that can truly heal and satisfy. Nothing else can; not our bright lights or money or power or toys. Only the light of Christ can truly save us from the darkness of this world and give us real purpose for living. Let us therefore resolve to rejoice tonight in the midst of our darkness, thanking God our Father for the great gift of himself to us so that we can be his forever. It is a precious and immeasurably valuable gift from our loving Creator and Father. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever. May the light of Christ always shine brightly in our darkness. Merry Christmas, my beloved. 

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

Father Santosh Madanu: Jesus the Lord is the Hope for Our Souls

Sermon delivered on Advent 4B, Sunday, December 20, 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: 2 Samuel 7.1-11, 16; The Magnificat; Romans 16.25-27; St. Luke 1.26-38.

Prayer: Almighty and merciful God, God of Love and justice, heal our sick bodies and sick hearts, correct injustice, raise the dead and wipe away every tear from our eyes, comfort the suffering.  May no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your Son.  May we reach Jesus of Bethlehem to share the joy of the Lord with holiness. In Jesus name we pray. Amen 

We are sad that churches got closed for public worship for more than 9 months, close to a year with notices like “until further notice.” We want Christmas, but Covid-19 is not a joke. Will we have to wait until January or February 2021 for regular Holy Mass?  

As we know Advent is a time of waiting, in 2020 having to wait has affected all of us personally. Many events were cancelled or at least postponed. With the fourth wave of the virus, we are tired of facemasks and social distancing.   

There’s a joke that was probably first told in a train station and later modified in an airport. What do you suffer when you have to wait and wait in an airport? Terminal boredom. We say, “I’m bored to death,” yet waiting an extra hour or two will not kill us.  We are used to instant food instead of slow cooking, and instant messages instead of letters with postage stamps. Maybe we expect instant gratification. This year, many of us had to cancel plans to fly anywhere. We will wait months, or even another year, before we can go to the airport and enjoy terminal boredom again.  

The theme for the Advent is Prepare the Way of the Lord. This reminds me of something which happens many times in India  when President or Prime minster or Chief Minister make official visit to that particular village or particular colony or city  

We see workmen doing lot of work, pouring asphalt and driving a heavy roller to smooth new pavement, repairing that road during whole day and night. Why do they work after midnight? Why was it so urgent to finish the job?  

The work crew had to work overtime to prepare the way for President or Chief Ministers or the governors.  

How much more we need to prepare to receive the Messiah? 

We look first to the Messiah- in Hebrew, also called Christos in Greek, and the Anointed One in English! Jesus Christ is coming let us Prepare the Way of the Lord.  

How do we prepare to meet someone important? I polish my shoes, select a good shirt, maybe get a haircut the day before, and arrive with time to spare. I rehearse what I want to say, and, more importantly, I remind myself to listen attentively. One way to welcome Baby Jesus is to repent for my sins, have the Sacrament of Reconciliation, before Christmas. Maybe a harder way to prepare would be to apologize to somebody. Life is a long journey. We need to good turns to Right path in the journey of life.  Though we face many ups and downs, wrong turns and missed the way to the Lord. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit to navigate to great God Jesus, who humbled Himself to become like you and me to take us heaven. Our God is God of second chance to Begin Again. 

Disappointment, frustration, pain, sorrow and worry block any feelings of joy and peace.  So therefore we have the Gospel of Hope where we hear the message of Angel Gabriel sent from God to Mother Mary, 

Mary of Nazareth   believed in the message of God and Hope for the saviour of the world to be born.   She had to wait for nine months with confidence to realize to become reality of the message to be true.  Though she had hope but she had her won questions, fears, anxiety, and doubts about the Future of great event of Birth of Jesus the Redeemer. That is why she asked

How can this be, I am a Virgin?

What was the answer from Angel:  The Angel said to her, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High over shadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

The work of the Almighty God and the Holy Spirt is proved in the life of her cousin relative Elizabeth, in her old age she is conceived, she is in her sixth month who was considered barren.  For nothing is Impossible with God

When Mary heard about the Almighty God and the Holy Spirit from Angel Gabriel, she believed the whole message. And sang the song of joy and faith. 

Canticle 54(The song of Mary)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, he has looked with favour on His lowly servant.

Mary experienced the greatness of the Lord.  That is why she sings my soul proclaim the greatness of the Lord.

Do you have great experience of the Lord!

Do you rejoice in God for His wonderful works!

Do you want to be blessed by God like Mary! To realize God’s strength in your life.

Are you humble to have favour with God! Because God hates the proud and scatters them. Many kings and queens, presidents and pre ministers lost their thrown when they became proud and arrogant.

Do you fear God and change your life to experience divine life in child Jesus this Christmas!

God the Father keeps His promise to us, beginning from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

God in trinity over flows His love and His divine life for all of us who are in great distress and disappointment during this time of Covid 19.  Only Jesus Christ incarnate can bring us Hope of health, hope of peace and hope of salvation.

The song of Mother Mary should be our song of hope during this time of fear and in the evil world.

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ

We need to possess this grace of Hope in the work of the Almighty God and the Holy Spirit.  It is not possible for any human to gain the salvation without the birth of Jesus Christ and His cross and His grace.

We should have hope in our day to day lives.  We need to have hope in the lab report, hope in the surgery for good health, hope in our future, hope in our education and hope in the resurrection and salvation.

Hope keep the light of life burning always.  So that we can always look into future for better life. But hope without preparation has no meaning.  Let us prepare with joyful hope for the birth of our saviour.

The Advent Candles help us to have grace of Hope in the incarnate Jesus:

They speak among themselves, the First Candle said, I am Peace.  The world is full of anger and fighting and nobody keep me lit. And the flame of peace went out completely.

 The second candle said “I am Faith”. I am no longer indispensable.  It does not make sense that I stay lit another moment.” Just then a breeze softly blew Faith’s Flame.

Sadly the third candle began to speak: “I am Love”.  People do not understand my importance.  So they simply put me aside.   They even forget to love those who are nearest to them.”  And waiting no longer Love’s flame went out.

Suddenly …a child entered the room and saw the three unlit candles.  Why are not burning?  You are supposed to stay lit till the end.” Saying this, the child began to cry.

The fourth candle answered: “Do not be afraid, I AM HOPE!” while I am burning we can re-light the other candles.”  

With shining eyes the child took the candle of hope and lit the other candles.

The greatest of these is LOVE but the flame of HOPE should never go out of your life.  With hope each of us can live with peace, faith and Love.

How much longer did we wait for a vaccine for Covid-19, so that life can return to normal? Almost a year?  

When John the Baptist began preaching, it had been 300 years, 300 years, since the last prophet announced, “Thus says the Lord!” The Jews had the Hebrew Scriptures to sustain them. There was one Jewish temple in Jerusalem, only one. Though we have few hundred thousands of churches everywhere in the world, yet people lose the sight of Jesus Christ, His message of Salvation.  Every church conducts lot of worship programmes and outreach activities yet we have not transformed the lives of people.  I f my life is not built on Christ to be like him in holiness and love all my life being a Christian is only hypocrisy.  Therefore as we are preparing to celebrate birth of our Lord, let us prepare inwardly first in order Jesus to be born in our hearts.

The fundamentality of Christian life is to receive the heart of Jesus Christ. Not religion, not recognition and not to be great preacher, not to be great healer But to be Disciple of the Lord to defend faith in Him even during the persecution. My id is Jesus Christ the Lord.  No one else and nothing else, not even close to the comparison.  Because Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life as the Lord claims about Himself.

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one come to the Father except through me (John 14:6)

We pray for all the heroes who gave their lives to save many in the hospitals and health care institutions. We are grateful to doctors, nurses and cleaners who have been working overtime. May the Lord Jesus help them with health to help sick humanity? The Jewish people kept the faith during 300 difficult years. We can keep praying for one more year, even if it will take an entire year for the frozen economy to recover and for travel to resume. Baby Jesus is coming to give us spiritual recovery and to lead us to a better destination than a sunny tourist attraction.  

Prayer: Dear God, you are my light and my salvation.  You are my hope and my peace.  Please come into my heart and take away all my wrongs and give your wonderful gift of eternal life with the birth of Jesus Christ. May I be an instrument of your love and light to shine on others to experience your Divine eternal life.  Amen.

Father Ric Bowser: Slow Down, Listen

Sermon delivered on Advent 3B, Sunday, December 13, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon—and you’d better because Father Bowser never provides a manuscript for his sermon—click here. The first couple minutes of the sermon are lost.

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28.

Comfort in These Dark Days

Sermon delivered on Advent 2B, Sunday, December 6, 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 text: Isaiah 40.1-11; Psalm 85.1-2, 8-13; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1.1-8.

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

This morning we observe the second Sunday of Advent, a season of watchful waiting and anticipation. If you are like me, the prophet Isaiah’s message was like balm to your soul when you heard it. Who among us couldn’t use a little comfort these days? But how can Advent provide us with any comfort? This is what I want us to look at this morning.

Advent begins in the dark, literally and metaphorically. We are rapidly approaching the shortest day of the year and the extended darkness wears us down. Advent is the season for Christians to take stock of the world in which we live, a world filled with the beauty of God’s creation but also blighted by the darkness of Evil, Sin, and Death. Advent asks the hard but real questions about God’s justice and care for his world and us. Its hope is rooted in the power of God, not human window dressing, and this requires sober thinking on our part about our past, present, and future. Advent is based on the promise of God contained in the overarching narrative of Scripture to put all things right in this desperately wrong world of his, a good and beautiful world marred by human sin and the Evil our sin ushered in, Death being the ultimate evil. This is why observing Advent isn’t for the faint of heart and often takes folks by surprise who come from traditions that don’t observe Advent because we don’t play the Christmas game the way our culture does. While the secular world rushes about throwing up lights and decorations, hoping that all things shiny and bright will make it all better in the morning (it won’t), the Church spends its time during Advent reflecting on the promises and power of God. Don’t misunderstand. I love the lights and decorations and sounds of Christmas. Our house is a veritable Christmas wonderland. But much as I enjoy the light and beauty of Christmas decorations, they do not address the darkness of our world and therefore cannot provide any real comfort to those who need it most. No, if we want to find real comfort, a comfort based on the love and power of God rather than ourselves, we will find it here as the gathered people of God—even if we are gathered in exile on the virtual island of Patmos (Zoom).

The prophet sets the tone for us today. On behalf of God, Isaiah speaks these beautiful words to God’s people. 

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned”.…Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart (Isaiah 40.1-2a, 10-11a, NLT).

The prophet spoke to God’s people who were in desperate trouble and did they ever need to hear these words! Their ongoing sin had left them alienated and hostile to God and each other as sin always does. Their stubborn refusal to abandon their idols and their rebellion against God would end in their exile from both God and their homeland. We can relate, at least to the former. We are a fearful people these days. We are preparing for that “most wonderful time of the year” when we gather with family and friends to celebrate Christmas, but it won’t be the same this year because we live in the darkness of COVID with its attendant anxieties. Some in our parish family are very sick. Some of us live in virtual isolation with all its deleterious effects. All of us have had our lives and routines disrupted in significant ways. Some of us have lost family/friends to the virus. We aren’t even worshiping together in person and it all results in a great burden on us. The effects of COVID are not unlike the effects of sin that make us live in darkness and fear and isolation. This is on top of all the other stuff in our world that we must endure: aging, ill health, economic uncertainty, political divisions, rancor, accidents, anger, hatred, malice, injustice, and all the rest. We may not be living in ancient Israel be we too desperately long to hear words of comfort from God our Father. Like our spiritual forebears, we too wonder sometimes where God is in all this mess and what God is doing about it. Does he hear our cries for help? Does he hear us in our loneliness and fear and isolation? Does he care that we are anxious about our lives and the world in which we live? Does he have the power to save?

Yes, proclaims the prophet! Yes to all of these kinds of questions! And here is precisely why it is for our good to observe the season of Advent with its anticipation and promises in the midst of the darkness that swirls around us. As God promised through his prophets, God himself will come to our rescue to shine his light of goodness, love, justice, mercy, peace, and power on our darkness. He reminds us that we are mortal and are therefore limited in our ability to see the cosmic Big Picture God sees. We, like the grass, wither and fade away, but our God is eternal and is the only One capable of overcoming the darkness of our world and lives. God the Father demonstrated his power, of course, by becoming human (or in NT language, by sending God the Son) to address the problem of our sin and all the evil that flows from it. But God did this in the most unusual way. God came not as a conquering and invincible warrior but as a carpenter’s son, born of a virgin, born in an ancient and obscure village in Israel to suffer and die for us so that our alienation from God and each other could be ended forever. We know this is true because we know God the Father raised Christ from the dead to usher in his promised new age, an age completely devoid of Sin, Evil, Death, and all that beats us down and dehumanizes us. Advent therefore is a time when we anticipate the promised first coming of Christ to set us free from our bondage to Sin and Death. We anticipate Christmas during Advent only because Christmas points us to Easter. Christ literally was born to die for us (cf. 1 Corinthians 15.3), God be praised!

But we all know that Christ’s saving work on the cross and the promises of God to rescue us from all that darkens God’s good world—our sins and stains on the world included—have not been fully consummated. We all know that we still live in a world full of darkness. But there is more to God’s promises in Christ than the cross and the resurrection. The NT writers speak of the day when God renews all things and makes all things right so that there will be no more suffering or sorrow or fear or alienation or brokenness or Evil or Death. St. Peter speaks of this in our epistle lesson today when he talks about the new heavens and earth, God’s new creation. It would be easy for us to focus on the burning up part of God’s current creation, thereby dismissing it as unimportant to God, but that would be unfaithful to the text. St. Peter speaks of God’s perfect justice and judgment coming when all things are disclosed, a justice and judgment that addresses all the evil and wrong in this world. Who among us doesn’t desire real justice to flow like life-giving water? This is part of God putting all the wrongs to rights. Evil and those who commit it must be dealt with so that the righteous—those of us made clean by the blood of the Lamb shed for us—can live in a world no longer marred by Evil, Sin, and Death. No mortal has the power to overcome the superior powers of Evil and Sin. None are immune to Death. Left to our own devices we will be defeated every time we try to overcome our sins and failures and shortcomings. Only God the Father has the power to overcome Evil, Sin, and Death on our behalf because only God has the power to create out of nothing and raise the dead back to life as God demonstrated most powerfully in the resurrection of our Lord. If God can do these things, God can certainly bring about his promised new world that will finally fulfill God’s creative purposes. We believe this will happen when our Lord Jesus appears in great power and glory to finish the saving work he started in his death and resurrection. This is the primary focus of Advent: waiting for our Lord to return to consummate his promise to us to rescue us from all the darkness of this world and our lives, especially from the darkness of Death. We don’t know when that will happen but we believe it will and this is where we need to pay attention to both St. Peter and St. Mark. The latter puts it to us very simply: “The beginning of the gospel (or Good News) of Jesus Christ.” St. Mark in effect tells us to pay attention to this Jesus because here is God himself making good on his promise to save us from all that is wrong in our lives and this world. Here is God himself working on our behalf because of God’s great love for us despite our unloveliness.

St. Peter addresses the elephant in the room that was apparently an issue in his own generation: When is the Lord going to make good on his promise and return to us? For them it had been almost 30 years and he hadn’t returned! Oh my…

Looking back on on this short timeline almost 2000 years later, we can relate because we are still waiting for the Lord to return to make good on his promise to renew all things, including raising the dead. But if we focus on chronology we miss the point underlying the promise. God is faithful and has the power to act. When God speaks, things happen, even if it isn’t on our timeline or according to our expectations (and who among us doesn’t long for the Lord’s quick return these days?). No, says St. Peter, God is not delaying and he has the power to make good on his promise. After all, he raised Jesus from the dead didn’t he? God is working on a much larger picture than we can ever hope to have. We should therefore consider this “delay” (at least as it appears to us) as God’s desire to save as many as possible because God loves everyone, even the most wicked among us (insert your favorite villain here) and desires their salvation along with ours. Is there ever a more compelling reason for us to be bold in our proclamation and living of the gospel than this?? The NT writers didn’t worry about the promises of God being unfulfilled because as we have just seen, they knew the power of God made known to them in Christ’s resurrection. After all, the NT ends with a plea for our Lord to return, not a lament about why he hadn’t, and assuring us of Christ’s presence among his people in the power of the Spirit (Revelation 22.20-21). We should take our cue from these eyewitnesses and consider this time as a gift from God, an opportunity to get our own house in order and to work at being God’s people in Christ.

But if God is going to come to make all things new, shouldn’t we just sit back and wait for him to do so? Not at all! St. Peter tells us in our epistle that we are to use this time to repent of our sins and hone our skills as God’s image-bearers to bring God’s love, justice, goodness, mercy, and grace to a hurting and sin-sick world. Doing so honors God and God’s good creation. In God’s new world we will be restored to the fully human image-bearers of God that God created us to be. We can therefore rest assured that God will use our efforts in this world, puny, incomplete, and imperfect as they might be, to help bring his kingdom on earth as in heaven. Advent is thus a time for us to ponder the goodness of God’s creation and our role as fully human beings in it. The Christian faith is the real humanist movement because unlike the false humanists who elevate creatures over Creator, the Christian faith places God and humans in proper relationship to each other and celebrates humans as the image-bearers of God the Father with our attendant holy and elevated duties. 

When we work at obeying our call to be God’s fully human beings—always in anticipation of our Lord’s return to consummate his saving and healing work—we will find that the darkness of this age will wear on us but not overcome or defeat us. That is why Advent is the perfect time for us to devote ourselves to prayer and a careful reading of the Scriptures so that we know fully what are the promises of God made known in Jesus Christ and his people. We should attend to confession and receiving forgiveness because we remember we are part of the problem of sin that God must address, and to the breaking of bread together and to our fellowship because they reveal Christ powerfully present among us. Yes we are stranded on Patmos at the moment but that does not stop us from doing any of these things. We can pick up the phone or write a note of encouragement or get together on a smaller scale. We can still pray together, worship together, commune with Christ together, study Scripture together, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and help the poor. We can still support our favorite projects and encourage each other by reminding ourselves that Jesus Christ is crucified, risen, and ascended, and has promised to return to consummate his initial saving work, i.e., that darkness will not have the final say. We can remind ourselves that God is faithful and we can depend on his promises, irrespective of what the world thinks or our fallen nature sometimes doubts, by reminding ourselves regularly that Christ is risen and present to us in the power of the Spirit. We will be mocked as naive and ignorant and reviled as haters—and that’s just for starters. But we will embrace the scorn, praising God for the privilege of suffering shame and derision for our Lord’s Name. We can do all this because we believe our Lord’s Advent promise to us to make all things new. There’s great comfort in that, my beloved. Let none of us feed our pearls to the swine. This Advent, let us resolve as the family of God at St. Augustine’s to demonstrate to the world and each other that we believe the promises and power of God to be true by renewed acts of service, humility, mercy, love—especially to our enemies, justice, patience, and being of good cheer, the kind that comes from having real hope. As we do so, remember St. Paul’s admonition to us about the power of God because that is the key to our success in all our glorious messiness as wounded but rescued human beings: Glory to him whose power working in you is infinitely more than you can ask or imagine. Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus forever and ever.

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

Father Philip Sang: Watching and Waiting

Sermon delivered on Advent Sunday Year B, November 29, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Happy new year! If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 64.1-9; Psalm 80.1-8, 18-20; 1 Corinthians 1.3-9; Mark 13.24-37.

Happy New Year St Augies! Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his final advent as judge at the end of time. The readings and liturgies not only direct us towards Christ’s birth, they also challenge the modern reluctance to confront the theme of divine judgement.

The four last things – Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell – have been traditional themes for advent meditation. The characteristic note of advent is therefore expectation rather than penitence, although the character of the season is easily colored by an analogy with Lent. the anticipation of Christmas under commercial pressure has also made it harder to sustain the appropriate sense of alert watchfulness.

Many people have spent some time in decorating for the holidays, one of the best things about the holiday season is enjoying decorations. Last year my boys and I went to Hebron, National trail raceway to enjoy wonderlight Christmas lights, the boys liked and they are asking that we go there again this year. I love Christmas lights. There’s something magical about lights. There is something quite peaceful and reassuring about those little lights of the holiday season.

The preparations remind us that the season of Advent has begun, the start of a new church year, help draw us into the awe and wonder of preparing for Christmas.

The world as Christians know, will come to an end. The old world will die away, and the new world will begin. The real problem is that we all know the story. It is impossible to fool us. We know that Jesus has already been born, lived, died to save us, was resurrected, and will come again. The question is not when the world will end as we know it, but when will God end the world and bring God’s Kingdom in creation as we know it to completion. Advent is a time of waiting and expectation. It is like so many things in our lives. It starts very early when children ask if they can have PlayStation. The answer is often, no, not until. . . fill in the blank. You can have PlayStation after your room is clean, after supper, after you rake the leaves, after. . . Or simply, no, you don’t get play station today. And children view this series of events as unfair. Why aren’t we allowed to have play station when we want it?

Even in today’s world of instant access to almost everything, children still have to wait for their treats. It isn’t that the parents are being mean, or want to intentionally deprive their children of a small joy. It is normally because the parents are trying to do what is good for their child, or teach their children, or most likely, a little of both.

Unfortunately, as adults we face the same problems. We want things now. We want that new television with internet capability. We want that new car. Our lives will be so much better if we can just have. . . fill in the blank. We can have the new TV after we pay off the mortgage.

Our lives will be perfect once we don’t have to wait for what we want. Our lives would be fulfilled if we could just have. . . We want it now.

Is that true with the Kingdom of God? Do we want God to end the world so that the Kingdom of God is complete? Are we prepared to have God tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at the presence of our Lord? Do we transgress because we think God is not around? Have we all become unclean, and all our righteous deeds like a filthy cloth? Isaiah is pretty straight forward and pretty rough. But there is a silver lining to this.

O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are the potter. We are all your people.

(Isaiah 64: 3-9) This is not our time, but God’s time. We say that we trust God, but in our frailty we want God to give us the good without the work. We want the controllers/PlayStation to play before our rooms are clean. The waiting is difficult, but we wait because God knows what is best for us. If we always got what we wanted as soon as we thought we wanted it, then the reward would lack meaning. We would be hard pressed to appreciate those things given us that we don’t deserve. The magic moment is when we realize that we receive something that we don’t deserve.

Advent is a time of waiting and expectation. It is not a time of anxious waiting and anxious expectation. We must stay awake in our minds and in our actions. We do not know when the master of all creation will return. We suffer in the darkness created by our works, yet we have the ability to put on the armor of light. We must all learn to appreciate what we have right now. We are stewards of the Kingdom of God in creation while we await God’s full return. We have been given the instructions for the work that needs to be done. We know that we have to make our beds, clean our rooms, rake the leaves, because by doing the work we have been given, we do the work God has given us to do. If we do our work, we don’t receive a playstation that lasts for few minutes or so, but we will rise to life immortal through him who lives and reigns.

Advent calls us to slow down, to take a breath, to watch and wait. I know that it isn’t easy. Waiting is not easy. But Advent calls us to develop an attitude of watchful expectation, an attitude of hope. Christ has come once and Christ will come again. Heaven and earth will pass away, says Jesus, but my words will not pass away. God is faithful. God’s promises are true.

Advent is a reminder that God shows up in human lives, in human history, in the most unexpected of places.

Advent calls us to be alert, to watch and wait. And to look for what God is doing here at St Augustines, To look for what God is doing in our town, in our work places and play places, in our homes. To look for what God is doing in your own life, your own most precious life.

The passage we read from Isaiah, falls under what most scholars refer to as “Third Isaiah.” (56-66) Like Second Isaiah, these passages take place after the exile, but these chapters occur at a later date after the people have returned to their ancestral land. The prophet recognized that the hope for the people to change their ways, that they would recognize God as the true king in their life, have faded. The people have turned back to their old patterns and have forgotten God. Isaiah cried out for God to respond like in days of old, to rip open the heavens and come down the mountains, like God was present with Moses when the people went astray. Isaiah longed for the people to remember God’s ways, to pay attention to God. However, Isaiah also asked God to forgive the people, and to not remain angry, for they were still God’s people. This is what our prayer is even today The psalmist calls upon God to save the people from their enemies, to save them from suffering. The psalmist calls upon God to restore the people, to save them from their destruction. The psalmist seeks God’s presence through their “right hand” to be present with the one who will lead them—a hope of a new king. If the people are spared, if they are delivered from their enemies, they will not turn back from God. God is the only one who can restore and save them.

Jesus spoke of the coming of the Son of Man, the Day of Judgment in today’s gospel. The Son of Man would come to establish the reign of God on earth. The Son of Man would gather people from all parts of the earth together. Jesus insisted that no one can know when these things would come to pass, but urged his disciples and other followers to stay alert, to be ready. Look at the things in the world that tell you what is coming next, Jesus said, using the fig tree as an example. When the fig tree sprouts leaves, you know summer is near. But one does not know when the Son of Man will come, so be alert, and not like the servants of a man who left the house, and the servants were asleep instead of keeping watch like they were supposed to be. The phrase “keep awake,” refers to living as Christ taught us to live, and not going back into our old selfish ways.

Advent is the season of preparation for Christmas, but it is an active watching and waiting for the arrival of Christ in our world and in our lives in a new way. We read these passages pointing to the day of judgment and Christ’s return to remind us that we are still actively waiting, alert and awake. Because of the Nativity story, that Christ came to us in a completely unexpected way as a newborn child, so in these days we must be ready for Christ to enter our world, our lives, and our hearts in an unexpected way. How do we live faithfully in times when our faith might be tested? When the world isn’t as we hoped it would be? Where can we find signs of God’s faithfulness in our lives, in the world around us? Let’s be on the watch as we wait with hope the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ In the name of God, the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Father Jonathon Wylie: Christ and His Kingdom

Sermon delivered on Christ the King Sunday A, November 22, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Wylie is trying to save the forests and steadfastly refuses to offer a written manuscript of his sermon. To listen to the audio podcast of it, click here. The first 5 minutes of the sermon were not recorded, not because Father Wylie’s preaching was particularly bad but because the tech person in charge is a doofus. ?

Lectionary texts: Ezekiel 34.11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100; Ephesians 1.15-23; Matthew 25.31-46.

The Day of the Lord’s a Good Thing?

Sermon delivered on the second Sunday before Advent A, November 15, 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 text: Zephaniah 1.7, 12-18; Psalm 90; 1 Thessalonians 5.1-1; Matthew 25.14-30.

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

If you’ve looked at the sermon’s title and are wondering if I have lost what is left of my rapidly dwindling mind, especially in light of our readings this morning, no I haven’t. We are currently in the season of Kingdomtide, that four week period of time in November between All-Saints’ Sunday and Advent Sunday. The focus of Kingdomtide is, well, on the coming Kingdom of God on earth as in heaven with King Jesus ruling God’s creation unmistakably and unambiguously. Kingdomtide is a pre-Advent season of sorts. Advent, you recall, is the season of four Sundays leading up to Christmas, with its focus on the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in great power and glory to raise the dead and renew all things in heaven and earth. We get a sample of this in our readings for today and this is what I want us to focus on. How can we possibly view the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, the coming day of God’s wrath and judgment on all that corrupts and kills God’s good creation and creatures as a good thing? I will try to make my comments brief and to the point to counteract Father Wylie’s rather, um, robust sermon from last week.

Advent and the season leading up to it, Kingdomtide—formerly one season of Advent, the length of which rivaled the season of Lent—is a season of darkness. The days are shorter, the weather turns colder along with our moods—this year greatly exacerbated by COVID—and the lectionary acknowledges all this by turning to some of the more troubling passages of Scripture (troubling at least for most of us). In both the Old and NTs, the message is crystal clear: God will judge all that is wrong with his world. In both testaments, this is called the Day of the Lord. We see it clearly in our OT and psalm lessons this morning and if you are like me, that Day terrifies me. Now most of us, in our good myopic fashion, are all about having God execute his judgment and wrath on those we dislike or disagree. Serves ‘em right, we say. But we are not so keen on God’s judgment when it comes to falling on us or our friends or tribe. But nowhere in Scripture do we read that we get to dictate on whom God’s judgment falls. That is for God alone to decide. Nowhere do we read that we are exempt from God’s judgment, not even in the NT (cf. 2 Cor 5.10; Rm 14.10)! No, the Day of the Lord, awful as it will be, will fall on every one of us, not just our enemies. 

This is where the terror comes in for me because I know my own fallen heart. I know my own willful disobedience toward God, my own selfishness, my own willfulness, my own transgressions, and they are legion. And if you are honest with yourself, you will admit that for yourself as well. No one is exempt from God’s terrible judgment on our sins and the dark powers behind them. So why would anyone in their right mind, Christians included, actually want the great and dreadful Day of the Lord to come? To answer that question, we turn to St. Paul in our epistle lesson. There he tells us that, “God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” (1 Thess 5.9-11). How are we to resolve the apparent contradiction of St. Paul’s logic with the logic of the Day of the Lord?

St. Paul gives us the answer, of course: Jesus Christ. Before we look at this, it is important that we think wisely, humbly, and faithfully about the Day of the Lord and God’s wrath and judgment. For those who refuse to make room for God and acknowledge his order by living wisely and humanly, i.e., as his image-bearing creatures who reflect God’s wisdom and beauty and goodness out into all creation over which we are called to rule, the Day of the Lord will truly be great and dreadful because they, like the rest of us, have failed to live as God calls us to live, and in the process their sin, along with the powers of Evil their sin allows to operate in God’s world, will be rightly judged. In other words, we are talking about God’s good and perfect justice being enforced in God’s good but corrupt world to restore and renew it so that all hints of injustice are forever obliterated. Who among us does not long for such a day? Who, but the most evil and vile among us, does not long for an end to injustice? If God is a God of love, then God must at some point put all that is wrong in this world to rights and hold those who corrupt and destroy it accountable. On that day, it won’t be a matter of personal opinion or your truth vs. my truth. God will judge all according to his Truth, the only truth there is, despite our futile attempts these days to deny its reality. So there will no opinions on that day. We will be held accountable for our actions, good and bad, by God’s Truth, not ours, and all the evildoers, both human and spiritual, will be banished from God’s presence and world forever. So while there is judgment that is coming, it is healing judgment and justice. God loves us too much to let us continue to be plagued by all that currently bedevils us and makes us crazy and less human. If we know we will not be swept away on that day, we can anticipate it with great joy, even as we anticipate it with great fear and trembling. After all, none of us dare presume on God’s great love and mercy. We remember that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rm 3.23). We are all therefore subject to God’s good and perfect justice because we are all part of the problem to one extent or another. As the story of God’s presence among his people in the wilderness attests, when the profane (humans) meets the holy (God) on their terms and not God’s, it never turns out well for the profane (see, e.g., Numbers 15), thus the book of Leviticus and its rules for living in the holy presence of God.

St. Paul understood and acknowledged all this, especially in his letter to the Romans. But St. Paul also knew Jesus Christ, crucified, raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven to rule over God’s creation. This is why he said that those of us who put our hope and trust in Christ are destined to escape God’s terrible judgment that will sweep away all things (and all people) evil because on the cross, God poured out his righteous justice and wrath on our sins by condemning them in Christ’s body (Rm 8.3-4). That is why there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rm 8.1). We are not exempt because we are special people. Far from it. We are exempt only because of God’s great love and mercy for us shown in Christ crucified. Without the cross of Christ, we are all doomed to destruction. Our response to God’s great love and mercy is to put our whole hope and trust in Jesus Christ and him crucified and raised from the dead. 

Some Christians sadly act as badly (and sometimes worse) than non-Christians, and if we do so on a regular or systematic basis, we demonstrate to God and the world that we have most certainly have not put our whole hope and trust in Christ. Instead, we demonstrate that we are putting our hope and trust in ourselves and/or something else in this world: money, power, sex, identity, security, etc. as the prophet warned in our OT lesson. I am not talking about occasional (or even frequent) lapses. I am talking about regularly acting in sub-human and ungodly ways, where we treat others and God with contempt while trying to raise ourselves and our agendas to godlike status. Those folks have every reason to fear the Day of the Lord.

But those of us whose thinking, speaking, and behavior reflect the fact that we do put our hope and trust in Christ alone and not ourselves, however imperfectly and ambiguously, have no reason to fear the Day of the Lord because we know we are covered by the blood of the Lamb shed for us. We know that on our own we don’t stand a chance on that awful Day, but we also declare that we are not on our own. We are Christ’s and he is our sole hope and chance to experience God’s promised glory in his new creation. This must create in us a deep sense of humility and thankfulness to God the Father for loving us enough to rescue us in the most unlikely way—through the death of his Son. Part of our hope and trust must therefore manifest God’s great love for us by showing it to others, especially the most unlovely in our lives. We realize we are toast (literally) without God and this must create in us a burning desire to warn and encourage others to join us in giving their allegiance to Christ instead of some lesser thing that ultimately must lead to death. 

This is what the seasons of Kingdomtide and Advent are all about. They force us to look clearly at the harsh realities of life, both about ourselves and God’s world and God’s ultimate and loving response to all the corrupts, destroys, and kills God’s beloved and good creation and creatures. Those who reject its reality are living in a deadly denial, just as the folks did in Zephaniah’s day who lived as if God didn’t care or exist or was powerless to do anything about all the wrongs of this old world and its people. The Day of the Lord reminds us that God really does love and care about us and has the power to put all things to rights one day. The dead will be raised as an answer to the ultimate and massive injustice that is Death. All wrongs will be put right and all injustices will be banished, along with those who perpetrate them. For those of us who are covered by the blood of the Lamb, that day will bring about perfect healing and beauty forever. There will be no more sorrow or sighing or sickness or imperfection, either in ourselves or our relationships with God and others as there are now. What is not to yearn about that? 

As you come for prayer and anointing today, remember that these are imperfect signposts of greater things to come. We enjoy God’s healing right now, but that healing is only temporary. Someday we must all die of something. Not so when Christ returns to raise the dead and restore God’s creation to perfect beauty and health. Use this time therefore to reflect on that promise and resolve, with the help of God, to repent of anything you are doing, thinking, and saying that is in opposition to that promise. Doing so will bring about an even greater foretaste of that blessed day. Do it all with a thankful and humble heart, realizing that without the love, mercy, and power of God, you have nothing for which to hope. But remember also that your are not without God’s love, mercy, and power and therefore have every reason to hope because you know you are Christ’s forever by virtue of your baptism, and nothing in all creation can separate you from his saving love and power. Glory to him whose power working in you is more than you can ask or imagine. Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus forever and ever.

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

Funeral Sermon: The Resurrection of the Dead and the Renewal of All Things

Sermon delivered at the funeral of Baby D, Sunday, November 8, 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: Revelation 21.1-7; Psalm 23; 1 John 3.1-3; John 11.17-27.

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

I come to you this afternoon, not to eulogize baby Daniel—none of us got the chance to know him so eulogies are not possible—but to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead. It is the only loving and merciful thing I can do for his grieving parents and family. Why? Because only Christ can and will restore the dead to new life. If we are to have true balm for our grieving hearts, we must know Death does not have the final word in life.

Death under any circumstance is hard, isn’t it? But it is especially hard when we are confronted by a miscarriage like Daniel’s. We grieve that he never got to see the light of day or to experience the joys and sorrows of growing into manhood and navigating the fickleness and changeability of life. Babies are not supposed to die in their mother’s wombs. Parents are not supposed to grieve their children’s death. Older siblings are not supposed to grieve for their younger siblings. None of this is God’s will for us. But here we are, doing just that. There is no good way we can spin this, nor should we try. His death is just wrong. There is no justice to be found in it, no goodness. The tragic circumstances of Daniel’s death have the power to make us angry and indignant in our grief, the way Jesus was when he snorted at his friend Lazarus’ tomb just before he raised him to life (Jn 11.38) because death is our ultimate enemy, the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Cor 15.26). And like Martha in today’s gospel lesson we want to cry out to God in desperation and despair and demand why God let this awful thing happen.

But if you paid attention to our gospel lesson, you heard Jesus talk about a breathtaking  promise as he gave Martha and us an ultimately more satisfactory answer to her “why” question about Evil and Death. Jesus did not answer her question directly. Instead, echoing Psalm 23, he acknowledged that while Evil and Death still exist in God’s good but fallen world, he had come to destroy their power over us in and through his death and resurrection. He had come to fulfill Isaiah’s gracious prophecy: “[H]e was pierced for our transgressions…and by his wounds we are healed” (Is 53.5). Ponder this promise of healing and life as you keep in mind the image of Jesus, God become human, snorting in anger and indignation over the death of his friend. As you do, the Spirit will surely help you see God’s will and intention about Death as well as the tender mercy and love God the Father has for us his children and the future he has prepared for us, especially Daniel, even as we must live with the paradox and enigma of the darkness of this present age.

That is why Christian funerals are so important. They serve to remind us that for those who are in Christ—and let us be clear and bold in our proclamation about God’s power and declare that even in the womb, we know Daniel knew Jesus because we believe with the psalmist that there is nowhere we can can escape God’s presence: not the grave or the womb or anywhere in between (Ps 139)—Evil and Death do not have the final say because of God’s great love for us expressed in the death and resurrection of Jesus. As Jesus tells us in our gospel lesson, resurrection isn’t a concept, it’s a person, and those who are united with Christ are promised a share in his resurrection when he returns to raise the dead and usher in God’s new world. Jesus’ new bodily existence attests to the fact that we as humans—body, mind, and spirit—matter to God, and that new bodily existence, not death, is our final destiny for all eternity.

But what about Daniel? What kind of body will he have? What will he look like? After all, we never got a chance to see him as a baby or child or an adult. How will we recognize him? None of us can answer these questions fully, but the NT gives us some guidance. As St. John tells us in our epistle lesson, whatever it is Daniel will be in the new creation, he will be like Christ. In other words, he will have a new physical body in the manner of Christ’s—surely beautiful and radiant—and he will be a full and mature adult, perfectly radiating Christ’s glory as his image-bearer. His parents and family, along with the rest of us, will know him fully and he will know us, all because of the healing love and restorative power of God the Father (cf. Rev 3.5). 

When the new creation comes in full at Christ’s return, the dead will be raised to new life and God will put to right all the injustices and hurts in the old world. The dimensions of heaven and earth will no longer be separate spheres for God and humans respectively, and which currently only intersect. Instead, as Revelation 21.1-7 promises, the new Jerusalem, NT code for God’s space or heaven, will come down to earth and the two will be fused together in a mighty act of new creation. We will get to live in God’s direct presence forever and because of this new reality all forms of Evil and darkness will be driven out. God will judge and banish the wicked and evil, all things—spiritual and human—that serve as agents to corrupt, defile, hurt, and destroy God’s image-bearers and the rest of creation. Unjust and untimely deaths will be put to rights forever because the dead will be raised to die no more. Ashley and Nathan will get to meet their son, Daniel; their daughter will get to meet her brother, and they all will get to know and love and enjoy each other forever along with God and the Lamb. Can there be a more perfect form of justice?? How can their tears not be dried up?? 

Only God has the power to do this and only then can our tears vanish forever. It is a free gift to those of us who belong to Christ, irrespective of where they were in the span of mortal life. To be sure, the new creation is a fantastic promise. But God never lies to us and because we worship the God who has the power to raise the dead and call into existence things that don’t exist (Rom 4.17), we have no reason to doubt its reality or be afraid.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting that we should not grieve. That would be cruel nonsense. You don’t have a young life snuffed out and not grieve over what might have been and/or mortal lives that will never be shared. But as St. Paul reminded the Thessalonians, we are to grieve as people who have real hope and not as those who have none at all (1 Thessalonians 4.13-18). It is this resurrection hope, the promise of new bodily life in God’s new heavens and earth—even for those still in the womb—that we claim and proclaim today. Our resurrection hope is the only real basis we have for celebrating Daniel’s tragically short existence, because without union with Christ, none of us have life in this world, no matter how short or long, or the next.

And so we return to Jesus’ question to Martha in our gospel lesson. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this? The promise is mind-boggling. But as we have åseen, the God we worship is mind-boggling. Jesus’ promise that he is the resurrection and the life is ours because of who God is, the God who created us to have life with him forever, and who is embodied in Jesus Christ raised from the dead. That is why we can rejoice today, even in the midst of our grief and sorrow. And if your pain and sorrow are so great that you cannot hear the promise of resurrection today, ask the Lord to help you hold onto the promise until the day comes when you can hear and embrace it. Because of the great love and power of God the Father made known supremely in Jesus Christ, we can proclaim boldly and confidently that baby Daniel is enjoying his rest with his Lord Jesus, safely nestled in his Savior’s arms, until the new creation and the resurrection of our mortal bodies come in full. And that, of course, is Good News, not only for Daniel Miller D, but also for the rest of us, now and for all eternity. 

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