Archive for June, 2014

“The God of Abraham Praise” (June 29, 2014: The Third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 8A)–Canterbury Episcopal Chapel, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama)

Posted in Sermons with tags , , , , , , , on June 29, 2014 by montgomerybrandt

“…God himself will provide the lamb…”—Genesis 22.8[1]

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen!

This past Monday evening, while celebrating the 30th birthday of our friend and brother Zach Price with both he and our other friend and brother Ashton Sims, I made mention about the stress I was having regarding today’s appointed lessons and how my sermon was going to be drafted. As we were talking, Zach reminded me of something—that when the lectionary[2] presents us with a lesson that is either troubling or makes us uncomfortable, it should not be shied away from, but rather confronted and dealt with. Zach’s words were what I needed to hear, for they gave me the encouragement I needed to battle my stress and discern the focus toward which I felt the Holy Spirit’s pulling for today’s sermon. It is my prayer that in the words I speak to you today, the Good News will be made manifest.

The first lesson we heard from Genesis 22 was of the near sacrifice of Isaac, Abraham’s youngest son, born to him by his wife Sarah. Many biblical commentaries classify this story as being the most admired, yet also the most troubling of all the stories in the Book of Genesis. It is admired from the sense of Abraham’s deep level of trust in God and the willingness he displays to be completely obedient of God’s commands. Yet, it is troubling in the fact that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice, to kill his son Isaac, offering him as a burnt offering on a mountain of which would be shown by God. The episode with which we are confronted is a moral paradox—in this case, a situation that hampers our intuition, our ability to understand something’s intentions immediately. To have such a paradox presented so early on in the Biblical narrative is a huge risk, especially for one reading it for the first time in which they could see this story, think that God is some sort of heartless tyrant, and close the Bible, refusing to have anything to do with the God it presents. For today’s Old Testament lesson to appear just 22 chapters after the Bible’s very beginning and with the Bible having a lot more territory to cover beyond that, the logical conclusion is that this lesson’s early appearance in Scripture is meant to help establish a claim that is made throughout its every page—the Lord is good.[3] But how can a story about God commanding a father to sacrifice his son corroborate the claim of God’s goodness? It is this moral paradox with which we find ourselves faced.

Under what circumstance have we been brought to such a paradox? As you may recall, this past Sunday’s Old Testament lesson was the story of the sending away of Hagar and Ishmael, found in Genesis 21. In Genesis 16, believing “that the LORD has prevented me from bearing children…Sarai[4], Abram’s[5] wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband…as a wife.”[6]From this arrangement was born Ishmael, Abram’s oldest son, and with him, jealousy and contempt between his enslaved mother and her mistress. Then, in Genesis 18, the Lord promised Abraham that He “will return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son,” at which, upon hearing this, Sarah laughed.[7] But, indeed, “Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age…Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him.”[8] All of these events set up the context for last Sunday’s Old Testament lesson, instigated by Sarah’s jealousy over seeing Isaac, Abraham’s younger son, who she bore, play with Ishmael, the older son, born to Abraham by Hagar. In order that Ishmael would be prevented from inheriting from Abraham alongside Isaac, Sarah demands that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away—a demand that greatly distressed Abraham. God comforts Abraham in his distress, promising him that because Ishmael is his son, God will make a nation out of him.[9] So bending to Sarah’s request, Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away, after which God also promises Hagar that a great nation will be made out of Ishmael and commands her to “…lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand…”[10] According to tradition, the lineage of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, can be traced back to Ishmael.[11]

All of that brings us to today’s Old Testament lesson. One particular commentary I studied while preparing today’s sermon had this to say: “Unless there’s something missing from our text, Abraham doesn’t seem to skip a beat between God suggesting that he sacrifice his son and hitting the road.”[12] I, myself, believe that something is missing from the text—a description of Abraham’s emotional state. When demanded by Sarah that he send his first-born son away, Scripture says that “the matter was very distressing to Abraham…”[13] By Scripture attesting to Abraham’s distress at sending his oldest son away, I can’t help but to think that God’s command for Abraham to sacrifice his youngest and only remaining son was just as distressing, perhaps a great deal more so. “Really God? You actually can’t be serious! I’ve already lost one son, and now you’re asking me to SACRIFICE another? Why God? WHY?” Yes, Abraham obeyed and hit the road toward Moriah, but I believe he did so with his heart heavy and aching with grief.

When they came to the place and the time for the sacrifice was nigh, I can only imagine the emotional frenzy that Abraham must have been in. Binding up Isaac and placing him on the altar must have been pure emotional torture, torture that you wouldn’t wish on anybody, not even your own worst enemy. Agonized and highly distressed, Abraham takes the knife and raises it up, preparing himself to do what God has commanded. Then, as the act is about to be done, God shouts out, “Abraham…Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” How sweet, how precious the relief must have felt. Because of Abraham’s willingness to be obedient to God, God makes this promise: “I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore…and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”[14]

19th century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard struggled immensely with the Abraham and Isaac story. The crucial question he sought to answer was whether or not humanity should bend to the demands of faith when it appears to contradict ideals that are intrinsically good. One of Kierkegaard’s conclusions to this question was that faith requires passion, which can only be experienced, not learned.[15] For Abraham, this meant being willing to trust that God’s command to sacrifice his son was being made in relation to a divine purpose pointing to God’s goodness. The author of the Book of Hebrews speaks of Abraham’s faith in this way: “By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.’ He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”[16] God conveyed His goodness in that when He saw just how far Abraham was wiling to go to obey Him, He spared Abraham from killing his son, provided a ram as a substitutionary offering, and blessed him. A much welcomed end to a highly emotional story.

For us, though, is that enough? How can we bring ourselves to trust in a God that would ask us to sacrifice someone? I believe that we come to our answer during the course of the story, itself. In verses 7-8, when Isaac inquires about the whereabouts for the lamb for the offering, Abraham responds, “God will provide the lamb.”[17] Abraham’s answer, in relation to the moment, may come across as evasive, but underneath it lays a convergence of time. The immediate truth is that God did provide a lamb to be sacrificed in place of Isaac. But there was also a long-term prophetic truth to Abraham’s answer, further expounded on by the author of Hebrews—the idea that God is able to raise someone from the dead. Did God provide such a Lamb, raising this Person from the dead? Yes—Jesus! How can we bring ourselves to trust the God of Abraham? The answer is Jesus!

In the Gospel of John, Jesus said that “Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.”[18] The angel, in announcing the birth of our Lord to Saint Joseph, said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit…He will save his people from their sins.”[19] Saint Peter proclaims, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time…He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.”[20] Abraham was right; God did provide a Lamb—Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son. Here are some further parallels that help make the case:

Abraham and Isaac Jesus
“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and…offer him…as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will show you.” (Genesis 22.2) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3.16)
“Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.”

(Genesis 22.6)

“…Jesus…carrying the cross by himself…went out to what is called Golgotha.” (John 19.17)
“[Isaac] said, ‘The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’” (Genesis 22.7) “…[John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1.29)

Permit me, if you will, to close by speaking about how I, as a fervent believer, have come to a place of peace regarding today’s Old Testament reading. Because of Jesus—God in human form, who was, Himself, the full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice that paid the price for our sins that we could not pay, forever freeing us from the law of sin and death—I am able to stomach this story and trust the God of Abraham. Because of Jesus’ dying on a cross and rising to life again from the grave, I have confidence to believe that all is truly and forever well, that because Jesus lives, I live, and that, because of God’s grace, there is nothing I have to fear. Because of Jesus, who He is and what He has done, my takeaway from today’s first lesson is that I should strive to be as faithful and obedient to God like Abraham was, that God can really be trusted, and that the will of God will always be for good, for God Himself is good. Because of Jesus, I can, with strong conviction, praise the God of Abraham. Amen.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

[2] The Episcopal Church (USA) utilizes the Revised Common Lectionary, publicly released in 1994, the result of the collaborative efforts of both the North American Consultation on Common Texts and the International English Language Liturgical Consultation.

[3] Psalm 136.1

[4] God changed Sarai’s name in Genesis 17.15-16: “…Sarah shall be her name…I will bless her, and she shall give rise to many nations; kings of people shall come from her.”

[5] God changed Abram’s name in Genesis 17.5: “No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.”

[6] Genesis 16.2-3

[7] Genesis 18.9-15

[8] Genesis 21.1-3

[9] Genesis 21.13

[10] Genesis 21.18

[11] Esposito, John L. The Oxford Dictionary of Islam (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 144.

[12] Lonsbury, Leah. “How Far Would You Go?” (http://www.sermonsuite.com/#previews. Accessed on June 26, 2014)

[13] Genesis 21.11

[14] Genesis 22.17-18

[15] In his 1843 philosophical work Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard seeks to understand the anxiety that must have afflicted Abraham when God commanded him to sacrifice his youngest and only remaining son.

[16] Hebrews 11.17-19

[17] Genesis 22.8 (Contemporary English Version)

[18] John 8.56

[19] Matthew 1.20-21

[20] I Peter 3.18 (New Living Translation)

“God: Three in One and One in Three” (June 15, 2014–The First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday; Canterbury Episcopal Chapel, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama)

Posted in Sermons with tags , , , on June 15, 2014 by montgomerybrandt

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”—II Corinthians 13.14[1]

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Of all the Church’s Principal Feasts, Major Feasts, Holy Days, and Days of Special Devotion, Trinity Sunday is my least favorite. It’s not so much that I don’t like Trinity Sunday, itself, but, rather, feel that every time I’m the one assigned the task of preaching about this doctrine so mysterious, highly confusing, and utterly complex, I make the people I’m preaching to even more confused about the Trinity than they were before. So by the end of this sermon, if I cause any of you further confusion, I offer you my advance apologies. At the heart of my frustration with this day is the knowledge that, for the analytical human mind, I’m making a very tough sale. “God: Three in One and One in Three.” I know; it’s confounding!

Roman Catholic theologian Robert Barron puts forth the idea that the language of Trinitarian theology is purposely meant to confound us and the more I think about that idea, the more I find the possibility of such thought being true. Perhaps that is God’s modus operandi. Perhaps it is God’s purpose that we be intentionally confused, blocked, and shielded from fully understanding the Trinity. From the prophet Isaiah, we hear this declaration about God: “…My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…”[2] Why is that? Why doesn’t God want us to know every complete detail about Him? The answer, I feel, has to do with relationship.

By intentionally blocking us from coming to the full knowledge of His Trinitarian nature, God preserves His relationship with us through our want to know everything. We humans are an inquisitive type of being. We are naturally attracted towards things that spark our interest. As Christians, God is the source of our attraction, for He is the very foundation from which all that we believe in comes. So by shielding our minds from the fullness of His nature, God keeps drawing us more and more to Himself. The more we are drawn to Him, the more we come to know of God’s goodness. The more knowledgeable we become of God’s goodness, the greater our attraction to Him gets. The more we come to know about God, the even more there is that remains to be known.

So by God intentionally shrouding our minds from the full knowledge of His nature, causing us to draw more and more into Him, God, in turn, is also able to preserve His relationship with us out of the simple, yet amazing fact that He actually wants to be in relationship with us. What we learn from our first lesson from Genesis 1 and 2 is that God is relational. Everything that was created on Earth and in Heaven sprang forth from God’s speaking it into existence: “Let there be…,” of which God saw that everything He created “was good.” But of humankind, we hear that “…God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them…and indeed, it was very good.”[3]What we learn about God is that He wants to be relationship with us because He created us. In addition to our Genesis reading, the entire Biblical narrative is the story of God’s persistent pursuit of us. God simply cannot leave us alone. He just cannot do it.

You would think that after the constant going back and forth—of God using prophets to call His people back, the people coming back (for a time), then going away again—God would have eventually come to His senses, said, “To heck with them,” and left us to our own devices. But the love of God is strong—stronger than all the various kinds of love combined. The love of God is an intense love, so much so that it points to God’s very Being as unique and unlike any other. The most extraordinary way in which God showed and proved His love for us was by coming into our own time, making Himself human, and dwelling among us. Jesus is God’s ultimate proof of His pursuit to be in continuous relationship with us. Is Jesus truly God? Yes! Is Jesus really human? Yes! Scripture attests to these facts: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel (which means, GOD with us).”[4] Was Jesus there from the very beginning? Yes! Scripture also attests to this fact: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”[5]

So there it is—Jesus is God Himself, in the flesh! In the words of Saint Paul, Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created through him and for him.”[6] Apart from the fact that He composes part of the Trinity, the dual nature of Jesus—in that, in His one Self, He is both human and divine—is bewildering, but is a duality that was necessary and essential for the salvation of all humanity. Jesus encompasses all time that is past, is part of that which is the present, and, by His actions, has set the course of the time that is to come. By taking on our humanity, Christ caused us to become adopted as children of God, thus making us heirs of God’s kingdom.[7] Through His divinity, Christ made the offering for our sins that we could not make, redeemed us from the law of sin and death, and has forever reconciled us to God the Father.[8] The resurrection of Jesus from the grave brought forth life out of the depths of death for all who have faith and believe: “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”[9] Of course, the crucial factor of Jesus being able to do what He did was that as God, He was totally without sin. Jesus is God’s all encompassing, fully unconditional love personified, in human form, from whom we receive the gift of grace—the free and unmerited favor of God, through which we receive forgiveness of sin, amendment of life, and relationship with Him. “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away…everything has become new!”[10]

Jesus was God’s love that walked and talked with us on Earth. As Roman Catholic theologian Gerhard Lohfink notes:

“At the center of the Church’s faith stands Jesus Christ…In Jesus Christ, the Son, God has said everything. In Him God has fully and finally spoken the innermost divine essence. But God has also done everything in Jesus. In Him God has given God’s own self to the world in the ultimate act of love. In the risen and exalted Christ…the world has already reached its perfection.”[11]

When you have something good (or, in this case, extremely good) with you, why would you want it to end? But, as Geoffrey Chaucer (of Canterbury Tales fame) once said, “All good things must come to an end.” So Jesus, after spending a season of time among us on Earth, both before His death and after His resurrection, had to leave us, returning to His Father, our Father, in Heaven. Jesus, Himself, said, “…It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”[12] The ascension of Jesus into Heaven was pivotal for the human race, for when Jesus ascended into Heaven, He took our humanity with Him, thereby causing our humanity to dwell at the right hand of God the Father in the Person of Jesus, forever holding together the relationship between God the Father and the human family.

But just as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, came, opening up the way to salvation to the people of every land with every different style of language. In addition that our humanity would be taken up into Heaven, Jesus’ ascension occurred so that the Holy Spirit could come, helping us to live into Jesus and as His people in the world. Just as God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ, have been in existence from the very beginning, so has the Holy Spirit, revealed throughout the Old Testament as the Giver of life and the One who spoke through the prophets and the New Testament as the One who helps us grow in Christ’s likeness. The Holy Spirit is present among us, the Body of Christ, the Church, and lives within each of us and all others who sincerely confess the truth that is above all truth: Jesus is Lord!

“The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. God is the Father. God is the Son. God is the Holy Spirit. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Father. The Father is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Father. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Son.”[13] As confounding, complex, and mysterious the Trinity is, I have faith that it works. Despite the fact that I can’t figure it out, I have faith in the Trinity’s perfection because I trust God. From the Trinity, I feel God’s grace, which sought me out, ransomed and sustains me. Because of the Trinity, I find myself continuously drawing closer to God and I can’t get enough of His goodness. In the words of Saint Patrick: “I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three.”[14]

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God: O come, let us adore Him. Amen!

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations contained herein are from the Revised Standard Version Bible, Old Testament Section, Copyright 1952, New Testament Section, Copyright 1946 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

[2] Isaiah 55.8

[3] Genesis 1.27, 31 (NRSV)

[4] Matthew 1.23; cf. Isaiah 7.14

[5] John 1.1-3

[6] Colossians 1.15-16

[7] Romans 8.14, 17

[8] Galatians 4.5

[9] I Corinthians 15.55, 57

[10] II Corinthians 5.17

[11] Lohfink, Gerhard. No Irrelevant Jesus: On Jesus and the Church Today (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2014), 144.

[12] John 16.7

[13] The twelve propositions from the “Shield of the Trinity,” a traditional Christian visual symbol expressing aspects of the doctrine of the Trinity in the first part of the Athanasian Creed, found on pp. 864-865 of The Book of Common Prayer (1979).

[14] Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, translation by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895).

“Something Has Changed, Yet Remains the Same” (June 8, 2014: The Day of Pentecost–Whitsunday; Canterbury Episcopal Chapel, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama)

Posted in Sermons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2014 by montgomerybrandt

“…We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”—Acts 2.11[1]

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

I did not grow up with the 1928 Prayer Book, but was radically exposed to it during my senior year at General Seminary while serving as the Seminarian at Saint Thomas Church (Fifth Avenue), which utilized it in the recitation of the Daily Office and for the chanting of the Coverdale Psalter[2] at Sunday morning Masses. For those of you familiar with the liturgical customs of Saint Thomas Church (or who have had to bear through my endless ravings about the place), you will know that it holds a highly unique position within the greater life and witness of the Episcopal Church, having as its mission, “To worship, love, and serve our Lord Jesus Christ through the Anglican tradition and our unique choral heritage.” As you can probably imagine, the traditional language of the 1928 Prayer Book, combined with the liturgical customary of Saint Thomas Church, steeped in the great traditions of Anglo-Catholicism, and the glorious, heavenly sounds of its Choir of Men and Boys all emotionally clutched onto me and provided many Wesleyan Aldersgate-type moments. For me, all of these moments were Holy Spirit moments. They each brought me into the presence of the Holy in ways that were both profound and transformative.

But even though I came to have a deep appreciation and love for the language of the 1928 Prayer Book, my exposure to it also made me have a renewed appreciation for the 1979 Prayer Book and what it did for the liturgical life of our Church. It made me realize that even though traditional Elizabethan English lies deep within the history of the Anglican Christian tradition, language changes and the 1979 Prayer Book was the result of conscious efforts by the Church to communicate the faith of Christ in the language of the current times. Also, the rubrics of the 1979 Prayer Book gave way to greater participation of the laity in the liturgy and for a greater variety of expressions of worship in Christian community. The 1979 Prayer Book was the result of the Church being intentional in listening for what the Holy Spirit was saying to it in its time. In an ironic use of words, the 1979 Prayer Book was “meet and right so to do.”

19th century French critic Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once said that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” What we hear today from Acts 2, in a more positive context from that of Karr’s original meaning, is of an event that ushers in a change, but one that manages to keep that which its changing the same. Today is the Day of Pentecost, in which our Lord fulfilled His promise to His disciples given immediately before His ascension into Heaven: “…For John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”[3] Pentecost is also the fulfillment of another promise from our Lord in Matthew 28.20b: “…I am with you always, to the close of the age.” With Jesus making good on His promises to us, we see the descent of the Holy Spirit, the gift of Christ for His people, upon a variety of people from a variety of lands, speaking in a variety of tongues. By intentionally listing the various peoples upon which the Holy Spirit fell on that Pentecost day, Saint Luke the Evangelist, the author of Acts, foreshadows an important change that will take place throughout the course of his book—a change from the view that “…unless you are circumcised…you cannot be saved,”[4]to that of “…whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”[5]The most important point that comes from our Acts lesson—the point that has always remained the same—is that God shows no distinction between anybody: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[6]So today, in a more positive way, we see something that changes, yet also remains the same. We see that the grace of Jesus Christ, realized through our belief in Him through the power of the Holy Spirit, is something offered not just to one specific group of people in one specific way, but offered to all people in a variety of ways. On this day, the Holy Spirit has come, filled the hearts of the faithful, and has renewed the face of the entire earth.

From the Letter to the Hebrews, we hear that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”[7] Although Jesus, Himself, and the message He brings us—“I came that you may have life and have it abundantly”[8]—has never changed, time has and as time has changed, so has the use of language. That is what we see in the Day of Pentecost—the telling of the same message, but in a radically different way. Through Pentecost, Christ begins the conversion of hearts and minds to the reality that His salvation is being brought to the people of every land with every different style of language. Not only has His resurrection forever opened the gates of Heaven to all who believe, but the descent of His Holy Spirit has expanded the reach of the Gospel message, so that every person on Earth who hears it may come to the same confession of faith like that of Saint Peter: “…You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[9]

What I am specifically being reminded of this Pentecost is that while I may have a strong preference for Anglo-Catholic worship, not everybody does and while I may feel the Holy Spirit’s presence through it, it may make others feel that God is far away from them. As Episcopalians, that is why I think that the 1979 Prayer Book is such a valuable instrument for us. Its rubrics allow for flexibility for various sorts of liturgical expressions—Low Church, Broad Church, and High Church/Anglo-Catholic. This flexibility allows for a community to treasure the particular traditions that make them who they are, so that they may continue to hear what the Spirit is saying to them as God’s people. For me, over time, this has come with the realization for the need to embrace styles of worship that are different from that which I prefer. By doing so, I have seen and felt the Holy Spirit do some marvelous things.

The Good News is still the Good News: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”[10] The Good News will NEVER change. Because of His offering Himself as a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice on a cross, Jesus paid a price for our sins that in no way could we have paid and freed us from the dominion of sin and death. Because of His resurrection, the way to eternal life has been opened to us. Because of Jesus, the human form of God, “…we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.”[11]From Eucharistic Prayer B, we have been brought “out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life,” all because of Jesus.[12]

Article XXIV of the Articles of Religion states: “It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God…to have public Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments, in a tongue not understanded of the people.” By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit has come and revealed that all the peoples of the earth are His people. Because all people are His people, God has expanded the way in which His Word can be heard, understood, and received by everyone who hears it throughout every place on Earth and throughout all time. For some people, in our own time, Anglo-Catholicism is how that happens; for others, it may be through Low Church Evangelicalism; for others, charismatic Pentecostalism; for others, contemporary Christian worship. But though there may be differing styles of worship and languages spoken through which the message of salvation is preached and received, the message, itself, is and forever will be the same: “…The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[13]

The Spirit of the Lord has filled the world; O come, let us adore Him. Amen!

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations contained herein are from the Revised Standard Version Bible, Old Testament Section, Copyright 1952, New Testament Section, Copyright 1946 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

[2] Myles Coverdale, who served as the Bishop of Exeter from 1551-1553, was a Biblical scholar and translator credited with the production of the first complete English translation of the Bible, first published in 1535. Amongst Anglicans worldwide, Coverdale’s translation of the Psalter is the most familiar and treasured and was included in every prayer book of the American Episcopal Church until the ratification of the 1979 edition.

[3] Acts 1.5

[4] Acts 15.1b

[5] Acts 2.21; cf. Joel 2.32

[6] Galatians 3.28

[7] Hebrews 13.8

[8] John 10.10

[9] John 16.16

[10] John 3.16

[11] Ephesians 1.7-8

[12] Eucharistic Prayer B from The Holy Eucharist: Rite Two, The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church Together with the Psalter or Psalms of David According to the Use of The Episcopal Church (New York, New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 1979), 368.

[13] Romans 6.23b