About Fr. Maney

Fr. Kevin Maney received his PhD from the University of Toledo in Curriculum and Instruction, majoring in educational technology and minoring in educational leadership. He completed his studies for a Diploma in Anglican Studies at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA, and did his coursework almost entirely online. He was ordained as a transitional deacon in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) on February 9, 2008 and as a priest in CANA on May 1, 2008. He is now the rector of St. Augustine's Anglican Church in Westerville, OH, a suburb of Columbus. St. Augustine’s is part of the Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes (ADGL) and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

True Worship = Liturgy + Lifestyle

Sermon delivered on the 4th Sunday before Lent A, February 5, 2017, 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 58.1-12; Psalm 112.1-10; 1 Corinthians 2.1-16; Matthew 5.13-20.

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

What are we to make of the Lord’s stern rebuke of his people’s worship in our OT lesson today? Is there anything we can learn from this smackdown? Indeed there is and this is what I want us to look at this morning. What constitutes real worship?

In our OT lesson, we see the Lord, through his prophet, taking his people to task for their worship behavior. The Lord tells Isaiah to announce to his people that they are rebels. And how are they rebellious? They have the audacity to worship the Lord, to seek after the Lord and his ways. They delight in drawing near to him. They seek God’s righteous judgments and do all the right things like humbling themselves before God. And God’s response? God calls them sinners and rebels for doing so. We listen to the prophetic announcement and we want to say to God, “Say what? What are you talking about God? We thought you want us to worship you and humble ourselves before you and do other pious things like fast and pray! I mean, look at us! We’re good Anglicans. We use proper liturgy in our worship. We listen to your Word each week and hear excellent preaching on it (well, at least when Fr. Maney is preaching). We come to your table each week and feed on our Lord Jesus’ body and blood. We pray the Prayers of the Peeps and act all holy and stuff. Are you telling us that this doesn’t please you? Are you suggesting that we too are rebels and sinners, just like your people Israel? Surely you jest!” To which the Lord replies, “No I don’t and don’t call me Shirley [rimshot in the background]!” So what’s going on here (besides bad standup comedy)?

The answer lies in a careful reading of the entire text. Of course God wants us to worship him because we inevitably become what we worship. That is why regular corporate worship of the one true and living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is so critically important to those of us who want to have a real and life-giving relationship with our only Source of life. Our worship will help shape us to become more like God our Father who reveals himself supremely in Jesus the Son so that we can become the truly human beings God created us to be.

The answer lies in a careful reading of the entire text. Of course God wants us to worship him because we inevitably become what we worship. That is why regular corporate worship of the one true and living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is so critically important to those of us who want to have a real and life-giving relationship with our only Source of life. Our worship will help shape us to become more like God our Father who reveals himself supremely in Jesus the Son so that we can become the truly human beings God created us to be.

The key to understanding Isaiah’s timeless prophetic criticism of the way God’s people worship is found in verse 2a: “Day after day they seek me [in worship] and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation [or church] that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God.” In other words, God knows that worship is more than just personal piety. It is more than just us acting all holy and stuff on Sunday mornings, critically important as regular corporate worship of God is. But true worship of God extends far beyond Sundays. We are to worship God 24/7 in our lives. In other words, Who and how we worship on Sundays must translate into action so that we think and speak and act like the true image-bearing creatures we really are. Without this corresponding action, our worship will sooner or later turn into idolatrous self-worship where we pat ourselves on the back for being such “good” and “holy” people. This, in turn, inevitably leads us to become proud and self-righteous people who are ready to pronounce judgment on all who are not like us. When that happens, we really don’t have a chance to practice God’s righteousness and justice because we are too busy practicing our own distorted sense of righteousness and justice. The result? More darkness instead of God’s light.

Real worship of God, worshiping God in spirit and truth (John 4.24), always involves our acknowledgement that we don’t rule God’s world, God does, and that God has rightful claim of our individual and corporate lives because God is our Creator. When we act selfishly, we cut ourselves off from God’s love and power and should not expect to find that which we need to live truly human lives. But when our worship leads us to act in ways that are consistent with our call to be God’s image-bearing creatures who reflect God’s love, mercy, righteousness, grace, and justice out into the world, then we discover that we have tapped into a power that is far greater than our own and in that power, we find our peace and purpose for living. That is what God promises in our OT lesson when he tells us that he will be before and behind us, and when we call to him for help he will be present to us (v.8b-9a). And if you were paying attention to this morning’s psalm, this is exactly what the psalmist promises us. In short, when we practice God’s righteousness and justice, and not the world’s or our own often distorted sense of righteousness and justice, we will become like God in the best sense possible. What an awesome privilege!

This dynamic is also what Jesus is talking about in our gospel lesson today. Jesus was calling Israel to be Israel, to be the human agents who brought God’s healing love to the world. But Israel could not do that by being just like the world, chasing after false gods (idols) and practicing injustice and all kinds of self-serving and corrupt behavior. Neither can we as Christ’s body, the Church, live up to our Lord’s command to be his salt and light to the world when we follow our own distorted and self-centered ways instead of his. If we are to be Jesus’ light to the world so that the world (along with us) can finding healing and peace, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. Paul tells us as much in our epistle lesson when he tells us that he resolved to know nothing but his crucified Lord. For you see, this is how God has overcome the world—through suffering and self-giving love, a love that was present in all that Jesus taught and did during his life, a love revealed supremely on Calvary. On the cross, God defeated the dark powers and principalities by breaking the power of Sin (a force) and offering us forgiveness of our sins so that we no longer have to be enslaved by the dark powers. This is why personal piety—worship, prayer, regular reading and study of Scripture, the eucharist, and fellowship—is so critically important. When we partake in these means of grace, we learn what God has done for us in Christ, i.e., we learn to experience God’s healing love and forgiveness, and we learn what God wants and desires us to be as his image-bearers. God wants us to embody his generous love, his faithfulness, his justice, his mercy, his grace, and his righteousness so that God can use us to bring his kingdom to bear on God’s broken and hurting world and its peoples. The kingdom doesn’t come in full until the Lord returns to finish his saving and healing work. But God uses us to advance his reign on earth and we can have confidence that anything we do faithfully in the name of the Lord is not done in vain (cf. 1 Corinthians 15.58), thanks be to God!

The world will look at us like we are crazy. It will hate our sense of righteousness and justice and love because they are rooted in God and God’s wisdom—the wisdom of the cross which is not the world’s—and that means we will suffer for the Name. But we are to take heart. When we are Christ-bearers to the world, we are confident that the power of God will sustain us because as Paul also reminds us, we are not only God’s image-bearers, we are given the Holy Spirit, who lives in us to strengthen and uphold us to do the work God calls us to do, just like God promised us through his prophet Isaiah and our Lord himself (see, e.g., John 14.18-27).

So how are we to be Christ’s salt and light to the world? We start by loving all comers, friend and foe alike. But we don’t love them according to how the world tells us to love others. We do not give in to the beloved’s disordered desires. We love them by desiring what is best for them, by desiring for them the righteousness and goodness of God as revealed in God’s word and supremely in God’s Son, Jesus. We must be very clear on this point, my beloved. If we do not love others with the love of God, we cannot make any claim to loving them at all.

Beyond this, there are a million ways to embody the love of God and to be the light of Christ to the world. In what ways is Christ calling us to be his light, corporately and individually? Let me jump-start your thinking about this. Every time we offer forgiveness instead of revenge, every time we seek the other’s good over our own, every time we manifest the generous heart of God to others in need, we allow Christ’s light to shine in and through us. In this season of irrational fear and discord in our nation, our words and actions in the political arena can bring Christ’s light and love to bear, not to mention his peace. Instead of demonizing our opponents, we resolve to debate the issues. Instead of fear-mongering, we remind others that Jesus is Lord and Caesar (whoever that might be) is not. We are kind to those who abuse us and speak the truth to power, even when we know we will get blasted for doing so. And let us not forget our own family as the Lord reminds us in our OT lesson. Let God’s reign begin at home in how we treat our spouses and children. Let us be faithful and kind and self-giving toward them. If we have children (or grandchildren), let us be bold enough to act like parents (or grandparents) and speak the truth in love to them, daring to love them enough to encourage them to use their God-given talents to the glory of God and warning them about the dangers and lies that are beckoning them to join in the fun to their ruin, all the while masquerading as the glamorous, the sexy, the hip—things like illicit drug use and the idols of popularity, sex, identity, greed, prestige, power, and the rest.

Is this hard work? You bet it is because much of the world does not want to hear about God’s love and righteousness. And if you’re from my generation, there will be this fear that we are starting to sound like our parents, meaning that we have lost our ability to be cool along with our hair. But we need to get over that lie and delusion that was foisted on us years ago and not let it deter us. We mustn’t hide under a basket Christ’s light made real and manifest in our lives. One thing is certain. Being Christ’s light and image-bearers is not for the faint of heart. But as we have seen, we are not people who have faint hearts. We are a people who are loved and claimed by the living God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us so that we can live with him now and forever, and who gives us his Spirit to equip us to do the work he calls us to do. And because of that great love, we are a people with a real present and future, unlike those who reject God and his Christ. This is worship that is pleasing to God. This is the Good News we are to live and proclaim, now and for all eternity. What a great privilege it is for us to be called to this life-giving work, which after all is the very definition of liturgy (the work of the people)! To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

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

Happy Birthday, Dad

JFM at BooteryToday would have been my dad’s 94th birthday, something I really can’t wrap my mind around. He’s been dead for almost 13 years and I still miss him. Oh, don’t misunderstand. I know where he is and I am not unhappy for him because he is enjoying his well-deserved rest with the Lord as he awaits his new resurrection body. So no regrets there.

No, I just miss him. I miss being around him and enjoying his company. I miss his gentle humor and his great wisdom. I miss his big heart and him being the patriarch of our family.

God blessed me richly in giving me a father who loved me and served as a great role model for me and the community in which he lived. For that I am thankful and I try to conduct myself in ways that would make dad proud. Not real good in doing that lately, though.

Happy birthday, dad. I love you. Thank you for giving me the greatest gift a son could ever want—you.

CD: Ohio Groundhog Buckeye Chuck Predicts More Winter

Oh boy. I think we better send this guy over to Pennsylvania.

MARION, Ohio – Pennsylvania has Punxsutawney Phil, Ohio has Buckeye Chuck, and both groundhogs this year predict six more weeks of winter.

Officials in Marion say Buckeye Chuck reportedly saw his shadow Thursday morning in the central Ohio city. Legend holds that winter will last another six weeks if the furry rodent sees his shadow on Feb. 2. If he doesn’t see his shadow, then spring will come early.

This is the second consecutive year that the state’s official groundhog has seen his shadow.

Punxsutawney Phil also called for six more weeks of cold weather on Thursday.

Read it all.

Archbishop Foley Beach: A Call to Prayer for Our Neighbors and Our Nations

Received via email.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As a province that spans Canada, the United States, and Mexico we face unique challenges on issues affecting refugees and immigration. I am thankful for our congregations that are a part of the Anglican Immigrant Initiative. They have taken the lead in caring for those in our communities who are refugees and immigrants, showing the love of Christ to the most vulnerable.

This week, I encourage you to follow their example, and make a special effort to reach out to refugees and immigrants in your local community.  In these divisive times, we have the opportunity to demonstrate a compassion that builds bridges, and overcomes fear.

In our province we also have lawmakers who face a different, but related set of challenging moral issues.  As public servants, they are called to carefully discern how best to respond to the global humanitarian need while also maintaining the appropriate role of government in protecting its citizens. There are no easy answers to how our nations should balance these priorities, and our leaders need your prayers.

In light of the Syrian refugee crisis, changes in US immigration policy, and the way these changes will affect us all, I ask you to join me in prayer.  Please pray for the poor, the refugee, and all immigrant families whose lives are made more complex, and sometimes more desperate by these events.  Please also join me in praying for all those in positions of public trust who seek wisdom in the formation of the laws and policies of our respective governments.

A Collect for Refugees and Immigrants:
Heavenly Father,
from whom every family on earth derives its name,
have mercy on all those who sojourn in this world.
As you sheltered your Son Jesus
who fled from the tyranny of Herod,
so now provide new homes for all those who flee the violence of this age
that they may know the peace of Christ.
Grace your people with hearts of welcome and lives of courage
through Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.

A Collect for Government Leaders:
O Lord our Governor, whose glory fills all the world: We commend our nations to your merciful care, that we may be guided by your Providence, and dwell secure in your peace. Grant to Justin, Prime Minister of Canada, Donald, President of the United States, and Enrique, President of Mexico, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them continually mindful of their calling to serve the people in reverent obedience to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America

Fr. Carretto Muses on the Church

How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you! How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you! I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence. You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand sanctity. I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms. No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, although not completely.

—Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes

Fr. Philip Sang: Foolishness or Wisdom?

Sermon delivered on the Feast of the Presentation of Christ at the Temple or Candlemas (transferred), Sunday, January 29, 2017, 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:  Malachi 3.1-5; Psalm 24.1-10; Hebrews 2.14-18; Luke 2.22-40.

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

The Christian message is foolishness to our world. But God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. Christians can only boast in God, and not in ourselves.

Imagine yourself a member of God’s heavenly selection committee. God has given us the job of putting together a pro?le of the sort of person that Heaven is looking for.

What sort of person should we be keen to select?

Smart people? — God knows everything (Omniscient). Surely he’ll want to surround himself with intelligence.

Good looking people? — God is beautiful in his holiness, so it makes sense to select attractive people.

Powerful people? —  God is Omnipotent, so Go-getters! Movers and shakers sounds good. People who know what they want and how to get it. People who know how to get things done.

Wealthy people‘? — Power comes from wealth doesn’t it? Better get some rich folk in.

Noble people? — You know — people of impeccable breeding; upper class. You just can’t surround God with low class you know.

We submit the list to God’s office, only to get it back. Ripped to shreds.

So what sort of person is God looking for?

The problem in the Corinthian church is that they thought God was using that sort of list.

They were a very talented, spiritually gifted church, but they’ve become proud of themselves and they’Ve lost sight of the importance of Jesus.

They’ve displaced Christ with wisdom. Replacing the cross, with their human ability. They have been patting or slapping themselves on the back for their own wisdom. But as we heard from the epistle, Paul’s pulled the rug out from under them. He’s turned their world upside down.

For the word/message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. —1 Corinthians 1.18-25

Paul wants to tell the Corinthians and us today two things.

Firstly, he wants to demonstrate the truth of the gospel being foolish to the world, and that God chooses and uses weak foolish people by the world’s standards to show himself as wise and powerful.

And secondly, he Wants to tell them about real Christian wisdom, a wisdom that comes from God, and not from humans.

Paul starts by reminding them of what God has done in and with them.

For consider your calling, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. —1 Corinthians 1.26

Paul is holding up a mirror to the Corinthians. You’re proud of your new wisdom and gifts from God — but don’t forget where you started from. Remember — you weren’t wise by human standards. You weren’t powerful. You didn’t have noble origins.

Paul is saying God chose a bunch of nobodies. The overlooked, the ignored, the unwanted.

God doesn’t choose how we would. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1 Corinthians 1.27-28).

Why does God do this? Is he just perverse in his selection criteria?

The reason God chooses the people he does is so that his people are on the same footing: “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1.29).

That no human being might boast before God. God is the rescuer. God is the wise one. The mighty one. God chooses people to show to them, and the whole universe, that he is God. He owes nothing to anyone. He’s not won over by human wisdom or power.

God wants the world to know he’s God, and the one who saves. “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1.30-31).

God has made Jesus life for the dead. Wisdom for the unwise. Righteous for the Unrighteous. Sancti?cation for the Unholy. Redemption for captives.

We contribute nothing. God chooses who he wants on his own terms — not ours. And he loves to surprise the world by choosing the people the world overlooks.

Think with me for a moment the our old Testament lesson for today, in a nation that was required by law to care for its prophets, it is ironic that God turned to ravens (unclean birds) and a widow (a foreigner from Jezebel’s home territory) to care for Elijah. God has help where we least expect it. He provides for us in ways that go beyond our narrow de?nitions or expectations. No matter how bitter our trials or how seemingly hopeless our situations, we should look for God’s caring touch. we may ?nd his providence in some strange places!

When the widow of Zeraphath met Elijah, she thought she was preparing her last meal, but a simple act of faith produced a miracle. she trusted Elijah and gave all she had to eat to him. faith is the step between promise and assurance. miracles seem so out of reach for our feeble faith. but every miracle, large or small, begins with an act of obedience. we may not see the solution until we take the first step of faith.

Todays gospel is about the first miracle Jesus perfomed. it seemed foolish to be told to fill the jars with water. as if that is not enough when they are full they are told to draw some and take it to the chief servant.

“He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sancti?cation and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’ ” (1 Corinthians 1.30-31).

The Corinthians have been boasting in all the wrong things. They think they are mature, but Paul is telling them to grow up. To boast in God and not themselves. And Paul also wants to remind them of when he first proclaimed the Gospel in Corinth. “Remember how I came to you. In weakness and fear. In much trembling.”

Sometimes God is merciful to the wise, and powerful of our age. But that’s the exception, not the rule. And for them to become a Christian actually means denying that God chooses them on the basis of their wisdom, power or position. For both the Corinthian Christians, and in Paul’s ministry, God wanted people to boast in him, not themselves. To acknowledge and respond on the basis of his power, and not their own.

The Christian message is foolishness to our world. But God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. Christians can only boast in God, and not in ourselves. And Christians maturity is about having God’s Spirit, not our own wisdom. It’s about having the mind of Christ.

Let me ask these questions:

What are you taking pride in? Maybe you don’t admire secular wisdom, but is there something you boast in other than God? For me, there’s the temptation that I’ll look to my theological training. That what I learn about God becomes more important than knowing God himself. Or that I trust in my work with chaplaincy rather than in Christ.

What are you boasting in? How long you have been a Christian? Coming to St Agustine‘s Anglican Church? How much you give?

What are you trusting in? We need to hear Paul again: “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sancti?cation and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. —Jeremiah 9.23-24

Let us sing prayerfully, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, The Christian Life Hymnal, 157

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Psalm 36

Your love, 0 Lord, reaches to the heavens –
and your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness stands like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep; –
you, Lord, shall save both man and beast.
How precious is your loving mercy, O God! °
All mortal ?esh shall take refuge
under the shadow of your wings.
They shall be satis?ed with the abundance of your house; –
they shall drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the well of life –
and in your light shall we see light.
O continue your loving-kindness to those who know you –
and your righteousness to those who are true of heart.

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

Fr. Ric Bowser: WWJT (What Would Jesus Think?)

Sermon delivered on Epiphany 3A, Sunday, January 22, 2017, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

The apostle Paul tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12.2). But what does that mean and how do we let that happen? Check out what Fr. Bowser has to say about it all, especially his thoughts on the “Sacred Why,” and then let the Spirit begin to transform you by the renewing of your mind.

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 9.1-4; Psalm 27.1, 4-12; 1 Corinthians 1.10-18; Matthew 4.12-23.

Listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon. There is no written text.

A New Year’s Resolution Worth Our Time and Effort

Sermon delivered on Epiphany 2A, Sunday, January 15, 2017, 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: Isaiah 49.1-7; Psalm 40.1-11; 1 Corinthians 1.1-9; John 1.29-42.

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

Who is the Servant in our OT lesson today? Is he Israel? The prophet? Someone else? Why should we care? This is what I want us to look at this morning.

In our lesson from Isaiah, we read the second of the so-called “Servant Songs” that describe the person and character of the “Servant of the Lord” (see also Isaiah 42.1-4, 50.4-9, and 52.13-53.12). But who is this person? The prophet at first identifies him as Israel (v.3), but later in our passage the servant is to rescue Israel (v.5). How can God call Israel to rescue itself? Is the prophet just really confused here? Maybe had some bad coffee or something?

Whoever Isaiah had in mind, Christians of course believe that Jesus is the Servant, in part, because we believe Jesus is the light of the world before whom one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess as Lord (Phil. 2.9-11). And as we saw in our gospel lesson this morning, John the Baptist certainly saw Jesus fulfilling the role of the Servant (and more). After seeing the Spirit descend from heaven and stay on Jesus, the baptizer declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This, of course, alluded to God’s call to Israel to be God’s light to the world. God had called his people Israel through the patriarch Abraham to bring God’s healing love to a sin-sick and evil-infested world, but Israel had proven itself to be every bit as sin-sick and evil-infected as the world to which God had called his people to heal. But now at Jesus’ baptism, we see the confirmation of our Lord’s vocation to be for Israel and the world what Israel could not be for itself—God’s faithful one who would bring God’s healing love to the nations, to folks like you and me. While John doesn’t tell us here, Jesus would take away the sin of the world by bearing its collective weight himself on the cross. In Jesus we see God in person coming to his world to free us from our sin sickness and to defeat the dark powers that had thoroughly corrupted God’s world and God’s image-bearing creatures. We know this because the baptizer used Passover language in describing Jesus as being the Lamb of God. Just as God’s ancient people had been commanded to smear on the posts of their doors some of the blood of the lamb slaughtered so that the Destroyer would pass over their homes and spare their lives as God began to rescue them from their bondage to slavery in Egypt, so we who put our whole hope and trust in Jesus’ blood shed for us will be rescued from a far darker bondage to sin and be spared from the ultimate evil of death, thanks be to God!

At this point, we tell ourselves it’s all good. God is doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves—freeing us from our slavery to sin and death. Time to kick back, pour ourselves a drink, and relax, basking in the glory of God and the knowledge that we are God’s special people. After all, as we have just seen, Jesus is the true Servant celebrated in the Servant Songs, the one who will bring God’s light to the nations and rescue the world from all that ails it. Not so fast, say the NT writers! Don’t get too comfy, dudes. While it is true that Jesus is the light of the world, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and rescues us from our slavery to the dark powers and death, this doesn’t give us license to be passive observers. No, worryingly enough we are also called to be servants in the manner of our Lord Jesus himself.

Why is that you ask? Because as the whole of Scripture attests, God in his strange and astonishing wisdom has always called human beings to run his world in wise and just ways on God’s behalf. That’s why God created us in his image in the first place. But almost right from the start, we didn’t get that memo and decided to run the world on our own authority, not God’s, and we all know how well that’s turned out. So God in his wisdom and mercy ultimately became human to defeat the dark powers who used our sin and rebellion to usurp God’s rule over his world and to free us from their grasp. We’ve just talked about all that. But as Paul tells us in our epistle lesson, until Jesus returns to complete the redemptive work he started at his first coming, we as his rescued people are called to carry on his healing and saving work on his behalf.

But, but, we want to protest and whine. We are not equipped to do that work. We’re not perfect like Jesus. We’re a bunch of sad-sack ragamuffins and losers, some more than other. We can’t possibly be Jesus’ light to the world on his behalf. Sure you can, comes our Lord’s reply. Of course you are ragamuffins and losers and can’t possibly do what I ask on your own power. But here’s the thing. You are not operating on your own power! I have poured out my Spirit on you to heal and transform you so that you can bring my mercy, love, and justice to each other and the world.

Paul tells us the same thing. We are God’s Church, he reminds us, the very body of Christ. We are called to do the healing work of Christ together as the Church and only secondarily as individuals. In other words, God has called those of us who believe in the saving and healing work of Christ to shed his light on others like us who desperately need that light. Before we can do that, we must first and foremost remember Whose we are because we are not our own. Paul tells us we are God’s saints, God’s called-out people, who are to be Christ’s light-bearers. This too makes us really nervous because when we think of saints, we think of goody-two shoes who never do anything wrong and who have very little fun in the process. But this is a lie and a delusion. We must remember that Paul wrote these words to a church that was plagued by internal divisions, sexual immorality, discrimination, divorce, and other sins. In other words, the church at Corinth consisted of a bunch of ragamuffins and losers just like us! Never mind that, Paul exhorts! Put all that behind you! God has called you to be his people in Jesus. Despite your faults and foibles, you are God’s called-out, Spirit-filled people, and you are given the power, however imperfectly you display it, to love each other, to forgive each other, and to bring God’s love to the world on behalf of your Lord who loves you and gave himself for you.

How do we do this? Like the baptizer and his disciples, we first and foremost proclaim to the world that Jesus is Lord and therefore we have chosen to follow him and his ways, not the world and its evil ways. We call on his name to help us look out for each other as much as we look out for ourselves. We laugh with each other, cry with each other, support each other, and build up each other, even (or perhaps especially) when we don’t necessarily like each other! We choose to forgive each other when we are wronged and we ask others to forgive us when we wrong them. We don’t make us and our desires God, worshiping ourselves and doing whatever it takes to fulfill our needs. We look to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God, taking care of those who are the least and the lost, the poorest and the weakest. We don’t do this perfectly and like the prophet in our OT lesson, we sometimes wonder if the good we do in Jesus’ name makes any difference. Of course it does, our Lord reassures us. Is using you as my light to the world too difficult for me? I created this vast cosmos! I conquered death! So have a little humility, consider my mighty acts, and have faith in my ability to be good to my word and use your work to help bring about my kingdom, even if it remains obscure to you..

None of this happens automatically, of course. We have to do our part. We have to put in our sweat equity so that we can be reminded of God’s truth and saving action in the world. This means we have to learn the story of Scripture and where and how we fit into it all. It means we come to worship God each week and be changed and refreshed. It means we partake in the eucharist each week to literally consume Jesus to be changed and strengthened by him to do his work.. It means we take an active role in our fellowship with one another so that we can support each other and build each other up. It means we are people who pray regularly that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven and are willing to let God use us to help carry out his will. Sacred privileges, those. And participating actively in those privileges are the ordinary means of grace God uses to equip us to do the work he calls us to do as his people.

As we begin 2017, let us rededicate ourselves to be Jesus’ people, new creations in Christ’s love for us (2 Corinthians 5.17), who gladly and joyfully proclaim our Lord Jesus’ name to the world as we are transformed little by little into his perfect image and equipped to work alongside him as his servants. The work won’t always be easy. But what a sacred privilege! The world will hate us. But we are called to take heart because Jesus has overcome the world in his death, resurrection, and ascension. This the Good News we are to live and proclaim in 2017 and for all eternity. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

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

A Prayer for the Church from William Barclay

O God, you are the fountain of all truth; we ask you to protect your church from all false teaching.

Protect the Church

From all teaching and preaching which would destroy men’s faith;
From all that removes the old foundations without putting anything in their place;
From all that confuses the simple, that perplexes the seeker, that bewilders the way-faring man.

And yet at the same time protect the Church from the failure to face new truth;

From devotion to words and ideas which the passing of the years has rendered unintelligible;
From all intellectual cowardice and from all mental lethargy and sloth.

O God, send to your Church teachers,

Whose minds are wise with wisdom;
Whose hearts are warm with love;
Whose lips are eloquent with truth.

Send to your Church teachers

Whose desire is to build and not to destroy;
Who are adventurous with the wise, and yet gentle with the simple;
Who strenuously exercise the intellect, and who yet remember that the heart has reasons of its own.

Give to your Church preachers and teachers who can make known the Lord Christ to others because they know him themselves;
and give to your Church hearers, who, being freed from prejudice, will follow truth as blind men long for light.

This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

—From Prayers for the Christian Year

Deacon Terry Gatwood: Eureka! I Have Found It!

Sermon preached on the feast of the Epiphany (transferred), Sunday, January 8, 2017, 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; Matthew 2.1-12.

“Eureka!” The lightbulb has gone off over the head. Aha! Of course! How could I have been so blind? Duh! Eureka! I have found it!

Sometimes we don’t even know what we have gone looking for before we find the exact thing we truly needed all along. Like the man who goes fishing for the sweet meat of a few bluegills just to feed himself one meal, and then he hooks into the monster fish large enough to feed everyone in his home, sometimes we get more than we might have set off looking for.

These are some of the thoughts I have when I read Matthew chapter 2, verses 8-10. Several wise and learned men from the east have journeyed a long way because of a prophecy. There is something happening at the end of the journey in the direction of the star that illumines the dark night skies. What is this something? What will we find when we finally reach our journey’s end?  Whatever this is at the end of our road, it is something that we must find. It is surely a treasure of great value. Their full attention has been seized by this beautiful light that has appeared before the eyes of all.

In Jerusalem these wise and scholarly men encounter Herod the Great, a real scoundrel of a man. He is a non-Jewish King in this region, and he has a laundry list of horrible things he has done in the past. Recently, he ordered the deaths of all the male children being born in the area so as to maintain his throne as illegitimate king over this place. Upon meeting Herod, the wise men tell him what they are looking for according to prophecy. They are looking for the one about whom it has been foretold that he would be a ruler and shepherd of Gods people in the Davidic spiritual and familial line. Herod has already gone on about the infanticide he used to protect his throne, and he’s also killed of scores of his own family to prevent them from ascending to the throne. There’s no doubt that when he asked to know where this child is to so that he may go and worship him, he’s really planning on snuffing out whatever he finds in that place so that he can continue on in power, unbothered by others’ claims, ruling as the tyrant he is.

So the Magi press on down the road, still following after that bright and beautiful star, their time spent in the darkness being shined upon by whatever this star means, by whatever the greater thing beneath it is. These men are tired, they are worn, they have been walking and riding for miles upon miles, and much of it at night when it isn’t particularly safe to go around. Getting to this place of the star is surely taking its toll on their bodies. Their feet are sore, covered with blisters. They don’t often have opportunity to stop and bathe when they find themselves in the midst of the dark and lonely parts of the journey where no one else is around, except maybe for those who would rob and maybe kill them for the things they have.

Yet, they are driven on further by the curiosity that has been building up within them throughout the whole trek. We must find this king and bow before him, and present him with our gifts. This is our mission, a mission we have been lead to follow after and accomplish, and we shall not relent.

Upon reaching their destination they saw that the star had stopped. This was the moment of discovery for these wearied travellers from the east. Their eyes would now behold him for whom they had come to see. And their hearts were overjoyed. The men rejoiced that they have now finally reached the end of the long and treacherous road journey that they have paid for in their bodies. And there he was, right inside the quaint little home, sitting with his mother, Mary. With Mary holding her son Jesus, and with Jesus clinging to his momma, the Magi bow down in humble submission and out of due reverence for the one of whom the prophecy foretold: “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Before their very eyes, within the same room, the promised one enrobed in human flesh, sits gently upon his mothers lap. He is so young, and so precious to his mother. The flesh of her own flesh, her little baby boy. His name is “he will deliver,” “he will save,” “he will rescue,” Yeshua, Joshua, Jesus. He will save his people from their sins.

Could this be? How could I have been so blind! Aha! Boy oh Boy! Eureka! I have found it!

Looking for a child who would be a shepherd and ruler for his people, they also found revealed before them God in the flesh, the one who will save, not through military might, but through himself and his sacrifice for the sins of all the people; for his blood family, the Jews, and for the others outside of Israel, the Gentiles, of which these men are. “I have found it, and didn’t know I was looking for all this!”

In their due reverence they brought to him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold, a symbol of light and royalty, fit for a king of his proper standing in Israel. Frankincense, a recognition that Jesus is a priest, and in this case we can say God himself, enfleshed for us and like us, used to offer up prayers to God as a sweet fragrance reminding the user of how sweet the prayers of the people are in the nostrils of God. And myrrh, the one which is most interesting.

This holy oil, the myrrh, is scented oil that is commonly used in the preparation of the dead prior to burial. It would help to hide the scent of death before the one on whom it is used could be buried.

See Mary, receiving this gift of myrrh for her little boy, Jesus. She accepts the gift, but with a deep question in her heart. Is my son going to die before me? What is going to happen? Why would they give such a gift? What deep pain and questioning must have gone through the Blessed Mary’s mind, questions that would be answered for her in 33 years when the purpose of Jesus, the God-Man wrapped in human flesh, were revealed in their final spectacularity.

He is the one who was prophesied, and about whom the Psalmist wrote, when he said:

 72:1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.

72:2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

72:3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.

72:4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

72:5 May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

72:6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.

72:7 In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

72:10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.

72:11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.

72:12 For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

72:13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

72:14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.

Jesus is all that God has promised to us his creation, who has come to set us free. Have we found it? Have we discovered who Jesus really is? Not just some baby with a claim to an earthly throne, but the God in flesh who shall be a prophet, priest, and King. The one, and the only one, who when being discovered causes men and women from the depths of their hearts and souls to proclaim aloud, and with great joy, “Eureka! I have found it!”

We have gathered here today in this assembly not by accident, but because we were drawn by light. Something about this light just can’t be shaken off and ignored. It is too hard not to notice, and it’s almost as if, by some sort of providence—God’s providence, we could say—that we have been brought together on this day, in this place, to hear of a God who has been joined together with his human creation in the flesh. What a great and curious thing that a holy God would take on the weakness of the flesh of a little baby to reveal himself to all humankind.

But this is exactly what he has done. And his heart and flesh will be tested by Satan, by the pressing in of the pressures of life lived amongst sinful humanity, and by those who would seek to kill him. And this God-Man, this one whom we have sought, and whom we realize first loved us enough to come amongst us, will be handed off by his own kin to be killed on a torture device built by those not of his own people. At any time we could think he could call it all off and accomplish the redemption of the world by some other means—except that he wouldn’t, because that’s the price he was willing to pay to continue to bring all of us into his everlasting covenant of peace. This peace bought for us through the marring of his flesh, the spilling of his blood upon the ground, and the excruciatingly painful death he would die. Yes, he brought us peace through his death, and in rising he won for us who are called by his name, Christians, victory over evil, sin, and death. All of this will happen to the one to whom the Holy Spirit has lead us to in this place, on this day. We might have come looking for something else, but we have indeed encountered our Savior and our God.

Close: And the only reason any of us could have ever found him is because he caused himself to be found by taking on fragile human flesh, uniting us to himself, and leading us to true knowledge of him by the Holy Spirit whom he also sent according to his good promise. May we ever remember that what, or more properly who, we have found is worth getting to know better more and more every single day.

To him who revealed himself to us in the flesh, the bright and morning star who breaks through the darkness to light our path and give all people saving knowledge of the one true God, be the glory now and forever. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Eureka! We have found him! Amen.

The Epiphany of our Lord for 2017 (3)

Christ is God, for he has given all things their being out of nothing. Yet he is born as one of us by taking to himself our nature, flesh-endowed with intelligent spirit. A star glitters by day in the East and leads the wise men to the place where the incarnate Word lies, to show that the Word, contained in the Law and the Prophets, surpasses in a mystical way knowledge derived from the senses, and to lead the Gentiles to the full light of knowledge.

For surely the word of the Law and the Prophets when it is understood with faith is like a star which leads those who are called by the power of grace in accordance with his decree to recognize the Word incarnate.

The great mystery of the divine incarnation remains a mystery for ever. How can the Word made flesh be essentially the same person that is wholly with the Father? How can he who is by nature God become by nature entirely human without lacking either nature, neither the divine by which he is God nor the human by which he became one of us? Faith alone grasps these mysteries.

—Maximus the Confessor, Five Hundred Chapters 1, 8-13

The Epiphany of our Lord for 2017 (2)

Matthew 2:1-12

Let us now observe how glorious was the dignity that attended the King after his birth, after the magi in their journey remained obedient to the star. For immediately the magi fell to their knees and adored the one born as Lord. There in his very cradle they venerated him with offerings of gifts, though Jesus was merely a whimpering infant. They perceived one thing with the eyes of their bodies but another with the eyes of the mind. The lowliness of the body he assumed was discerned, but the glory of his divinity was now made manifest. A boy he is, but it is God who is adored. How inexpressible is the mystery of this divine honor! The invisible and eternal nature did not hesitate to take on the weaknesses of the flesh on our behalf. The Son of God, who is God of the universe, is born a human being in the flesh. He permits himself to be placed in a manger, and the heavens are within the manger. He is kept in a cradle, a cradle the world cannot hold. He is heard in the voice of a crying infant. This is the same one for whose voice the whole world would tremble in the hour of his passion. Thus he is the One, the God of glory and the Lord of majesty, whom as a tiny infant the magi would recognize. It is he who while a child was truly God and King eternal. To him Isaiah pointed, saying, “For a boy has been born to you; a son has been given to you, a son whose empire has been forged on his shoulders (Isaiah 9:6).

—Chromatius, Tractate on Matthew 5.1