Waiting on Love

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

Last week the Primates of Global Anglicanism met together to discuss the end of Anglicanism as we know it. I did not have high hopes for this meeting, I must admit. I thought that Conservatives represented in the Global South would saunter in Wild West style, hands on their hips, ready to pull iron at the slightest twitch and shoot Anglicanism dead. They made their demands prior to the meeting—if the meeting did not force the American Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to repent of their evil doing (the decision to change its canons and its liturgy to allow for ‘gender neutral marriage’) then they would storm out and then decide how best to disassociate themselves from Canterbury.

The meeting was private so all we could do was sit back and wait for the mushroom cloud to appear. But Monday came and went and nothing happened—the Anglican Communion remained. But it was released that the first day was dedicated to prayer and fasting, which was probably forestalling the inevitable. But Tuesday came and no fireworks. Then it leaked on Thursday that not only had they remained together but they decided by an overwhelming majority to suspend the Episcopal Church for a period of three years.

  1. The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.
  2. In keeping with the consistent position of previous Primates’ meetings such unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity is considered by many of us as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion.
  3. Such actions further impair our communion and create a deeper mistrust between us. This results in significant distance between us and places huge strains on the functioning of the Instruments of Communion and the ways in which we express our historic and ongoing relationships.*

A Very Un-Anglican Thing To Do

Who knew that the Holy Spirit was alive and well in the Anglican Communion? I must admit that I was genuinely shocked to discover that there may just be hope for this thing called Anglicanism yet. They did a very un-Anglican thing—they took a stance. Now I really like when we take stances such as this for it means that we are unafraid to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This means that there is more to the faith, more to this thing that we do here—than simply going along with what the culture wants. Because, let’s face it, we want things that are bad for us. St. Paul puts it best in his letter to the Romans:

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

I applaud the Church for taking a stance for Jesus.

But Wait There’s More…

Yet this is not the only stance they took. They also took a stance of family. The desire of the Conservatives was for the Episcopal Church and the Church of Canada to openly repent or be removed. The stance that was taken for the Conservatives was to say, “Here is the truth, if you cannot accept it, there is the door.” But the mind of the group was to place the ball back in the court of those who have offended saying, “Here is the truth, now what are you going to do with it?”

It would have been great to see more action—we are Americans after all, we like action. But we cannot force others to accept the truth about this matter anymore than we can force people to believe anything else. The Anglican Communion has had an intervention with the North American Churches and said look what is happening around you. This is what your actions are causing, and then left them to make their own decision.

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Charity without truth is mere sentiment. What the progressives are professing is love. “All you need is love” is a constant refrain. But love without the truth is just a happy feeling that can fade as easily as it came. The truth of the Gospel is needed to show the depth which true love requires. True love is mounting the cross for to take away the sins of those who put you there.

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Without Love, I Am Nothing

Yet on the flip side, truth without charity can become cruelty. Without the love of God toward those around us, the pursuit of truth can easily devolve into something that represents the Inquisition—truth at all costs.

“Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

We Are In This Together

Like it or not, we are in this mess with those whom we see as trying to destroy it. But from their point of view, we are stifling the love that God has for his people and presenting barriers to their inclusion in that love. I encountered this many times during my time in seminary during CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education): “We need to meet people where they are.” This is a great truth. We cannot expect the people we encounter in the world to perfectly hold the truth. Why would I hold a non-Christian to Christian ideals? They have not yoked themselves to that, so I cannot hold them to it.

However, this is where the progressives stop (ironically). Jesus met people where they were, it is true, but he never left a person where he met them. Whether they chose to follow him or rejected him, they encountered the truth. He loved them.

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” Even Judas had his feet washed by Jesus.

And Now We Wait

Three years from now will be the Episcopal Church’s General Convention where they will officially make their answer. And so now we wait.  The truth has been presented— the traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. Now we have still chosen to walk with our brothers and sisters as long as they are willing to walk with us. We cannot force them to accept us, but isn’t that the nature of love? It cannot be true love if the recipient has the ability to reject it. Love is love, but only that which has the truth of God in it has the ability to endure. Pray that true love wins out.

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.


George and the New School

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

George enters a new school on the first day after the Christmas break. His father got new job in a new state and the family had to relocate over the break. So George is forced to enter a new class in a new school where he doesn’t know a soul. George was popular in his last school, not due to overwhelming good looks, but due to his infectious personality—a personality that builds up everyone around him, giving them a new dignity. But this is a new school with new people who have already spent their entire lives building friendships with each other.

George enters the classroom with his head held high, and as he is introduced to the class, he gives them all a warm smile, which was welcomed, but not really returned. For the rest of the morning George was an unknown—which did not lend itself to breaking through in this group. So when lunch came, George was forced to make his own way as no one had stepped forward to show him the ropes. But he kept his smile and as he received his lunch, he warmly thanked the lunch lady and headed out to find a place to sit.

As he surveyed the lay of the land, he noticed an empty place near the side of the cafeteria and headed to sit and eat his lunch. There was one person sitting there already—Bill—and George sits down and flashes that warm smile. Bill was a little reserved, but the two boys began to talk as they finished their meal. George found out that Bill was sitting alone at lunch because most of his friends were in another class that had lunch at a later time. They finished their meal and found they had a few things in common, and as they walked back to the classroom, Bill and George talked all the way to the door, until they had to part as they sat on opposite ends of the classroom.

At recess, George and Bill met up with Bill’s friends and they began to play games—they were superheroes saving the world from various crimes around the playground. They all had an amazing time and George had found a new group of friends.

The next day, as they were playing, a couple other kids saw the fun they were having yesterday and asked if they could join as well. Normally these kids would not have associated with each other, but today George found ways to include them. Now they had actual faces on the gang of enemies, and they snuck around the playground until the came upon the villains unawares and they had epic battle after epic battle until all of the boys were included.

After a week of this, Susie started to feel that she was missing out on something. Look at all that fun they were having—she loved swinging, but this seemed to pale in comparison to what the boys were doing. So after a particularly awesome skirmish, she asked if she could play as well. Initially she was turned away, but George found a way that she could be included as well. So off they all went until soon, every kid was coming in from recess hot and sweaty and utterly spent.

This did wonders for their teacher, Mrs. Jones. Whereas last semester she was constantly having to get onto the kids for picking on each other, now all the otherness in the class was gone—they were one big unit. And coming in from recess having spent all their energy, Mrs. Jones found that they were easier to keep on task and she was able to teach them more things at a deeper level.

As the final bell rang on the school year and all the children gathered their things for the summer, Mrs. Jones sought out George. “Thank you,” she said. “You have made this class on of the best classes I have ever taught here. I’m really glad your dad got that job and you came to our school.”

In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus shows the people the way to the Father—through his baptism. The question always comes up, why was Jesus baptized? If he was sinless, why did he need to be baptized? He did this not because he needed it to remove his sins but to unite himself to us by meeting us where we were and leading us where he wanted us to go. The water here is the water of Baptism, but it is also the water through which God leads his people in a new Exodus through the waters of sin and death and into the new Promised Land of heaven.

Jesus says follow me. Yesterday I said Mass for the repose of JoAnne Cole’s mother. The Gospel lesson there contained this very idea. Jesus tells his disciples that he goes ahead of them to prepare a place for them. And when Thomas confronts him about not knowing the way in which he is going, Jesus tells him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” Jesus leads the way to the Father. He blazes a trail because he is the only one that knows the way home, and that trail leads straight through the waters of Baptism.

There was a large crowd gathered around John at the occasion of Jesus’ baptism, though the text tells us that they weren’t looking for Jesus but for John, wondering if he was the Christ. However, this crowd was not necessarily solely Jewish. Nothing gathers a crowd like a crowd. So a mixed crowd was gathered there in expectation looking for something greater—the Jews for the Messiah, God’s anointed deliverer, promised of old, and the any Gentiles there looking for something greater.

We can assume Gentiles here with the connection that the Acts reading allows us. God shows no partiality—in every nation, any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. Jesus here steps on to the stage to lead the Jews in the New Exodus, but he also leads all Gentiles who will follow because he is their redeemer too. He speaks to all when he says “Follow me.”

He gives all the opportunity to hear the words of the Father to Jesus: “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.” But he gives everyone not only the ability to hear those words said to Jesus, but through Jesus to hear the words addressed to themselves—“Thou art my beloved child; with thee I am well pleased” as they walk through the waters to the New Promised Land.

The goal of the Christian life is not make God’s words of life a private recitation, but a public proclamation that enhances the lives of all. Being God’s beloved child is the great equalizer that allows all who want to accept it to inherit the promises God made to his people. In this case it truly is the more the merrier. And when more and more people are included and accept their place be doing what is right and acceptable to God it just makes the sun shine all the brighter as the darkness is not allowed to linger.

Beloved, do everything you can to encourage this brightness in your life and in the life of those whom you encounter. For everyone you meet is given the opportunity to enter into the family truly and have that place prepared for them with the Father forever. This is the good news. In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.


Egypt: Israel’s Groundhog’s Day

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

An alarm rolls over to 6:00, and as the numbers clack together, the speakers begin to play the end of a Sonny and Cher song: “Just put your little hand in mine, there ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb. Babe. I got you babe.” And as the song fades, the dj team comes on: “Ok campers, rise and shine. And don’t forget your booties because it’s COLD out there. It’s cold out there every day. What is this Miami beach?” They then warn the listeners of an impending blizzard, but this is Pennsylvania, blizzards are a thing there. What they are really excited about is the fact that it is Groundhog Day.

Our hero Phil Connors is there to cover Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of the weather—early Spring or six more weeks of winter. He goes about his day encountering various people in a town he hates, on an assignment he hates, only to be trapped by the blizzard and forced to stay where he is another day. So he goes back to his little bed and breakfast to sleep off the storm and leave in the morning.

The alarm rolls over to 6 AM. Same Sonny and Cher song plays. Weird. Then same djs energetically anticipate their beloved groundhog’s prediction that day. And Phil Connors experiences the same day again. And again. And again. And again.

First he is annoyed by it, and then he is convinced he is a god. And then he thinks he is in hell. But after that, he begins to immerse himself in the world in which he lives and embraces it. Phil uses his expertise of that day to improve the lives of everyone in the town, and finds that he gets the girl, not by manipulating the situation as he had before, but to generally care about all around him and to impress her with his care for other people.

When he wins the girl and falls in love with the town, the cycle is finally broken and he wakes up. It is 6:00 and the song kicks on: “Babe. I got you babe. They say our love won’t pay the rent. Before it’s earned the money’s always spent.” Then the djs come on: “Oh come on, not again. That is a great song. No it’s not.” Phil has successfully made it to a new day.

Groundhog Day. A contemporary classic film from 1993 starring Bill Murray. This movie actually has a lot of things in common with our Gospel lesson today. Jesus and his family flee from the tyranny of Herod the Great to Egypt. Egypt had a fairly decent Jewish population at the time in Alexandria and Elephantine and other places, so it should not surprise us that Joseph took the Blessed Family to Egypt to escape Herod. It was far enough away that it was in another person’s jurisdiction, but not far enough away that they would have to abandon their religion.

But those are the historical circumstances, there is more going on here. Matthew points us to Hosea’s prophecy: “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” Now Matthew is no idiot, he knows that when Hosea prophesied this he was speaking about Israel as a whole. But Jesus here is represented as a collective representative of all Israel. Jesus as the representative of the whole was seen as repeating the acts of Israel to right the wrongs and to fulfill the promise of redemption. This is similar to the role Adam played in the downfall of humanity which is why Jesus is also seen as the New Adam, a collective representation of all of humanity that will allow for all humanity to be saved through Jesus’ obedience to the will of the Father.

But wait, there’s more. Egypt also takes on a deeper role than simply a place of refuge from the storm of Herod. Egypt has been a place of refuge many times for God’s people in the Bible. When the food ran short in the time of Abraham, where does he turn? To Egypt, the land of plenty—the Breadbasket of the World. When Joseph delivered his family from a world famine, where did he convince his brothers to live with their father? Egypt, where Joseph had become the second in charge, behind only pharaoh.

But what happens when people are in the place of refuge too long? They forget God. They forget his deliverance of them into that land, and they forget him and begin to become inhabitants of the land. During their time in the land they remember God and a deliverer brings them from the land and establishes a covenant between them and God, further revealing God to them.

As a result of this, Egypt and leaving deliverance from Egypt takes on messianic themes and becomes a hope for the Messiah who will come to deliver them. This theme is picked up over and over in the prophets. Egypt is the place out of which the people will be called for a new Exodus, a new deliverance from bondage and into the covenant relationship with God.

Only this time with Jesus, they get it right. Like Phil Connors, Jesus shows them that this deliverance cannot be gained by manipulation of God, but only through embracing God and working through his plan can they proceed to the next day. It is in this little baby who takes on all of the hopes and dreams of Israel and in turn the hopes and dreams of all of humanity onto his little shoulders as he and his family head to Egypt.

They do not stay in Egypt and the comfort that represented there, but instead heeded the call of the angel to return to the realm from which he came. And Matthew tells us after his return, in Jesus, Israel finally learned their lesson. Jesus allowed Israel to continue to fulfill the prophecies of God. Israel was finally allowed to progress on to the next part of the plan. They could finally stop repeating their deliverance from Egypt, and progress on to the next day.

So in God’s plan, there is always hope for the sinner. No matter how many times it takes, there is always the opportunity to learn from the past and listen to how to use that knowledge for the present and even the future.

Now let’s apply this. We are a couple days out from New Year’s—new year, new you. How is everyone doing with their resolutions? The good thing is, when those fail, there is always a chance again for a new start in Lent. And then after Lent there is Holy Week so that you can at least finish it strong with a new resolve. But then we can always make Easter resolutions to get ready for summer. And if not summer, then the start of the school year, and so on and so forth. The cycle goes round and round.

God always offers us an off-ramp to deliverance, we just have to learn where it is by preparing our eyes and adapting to allow for its presence. That is the beauty of this life, tomorrow is a new day. The failures of today have the ability to be accounted for as long as we are willing to put in the work to make them right.

This Gospel lesson today is hope for Israel in that they finally get to break the cycle of sanctuary, degradation, deliverance, and oppression to finally reach the desired result of union with God. This Gospel lesson represents for us the fact that God is willing to work for us as long as we are willing to work with him.

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.