Archive for Law

“Jury Duty”–An Easter Message

Posted in Articles & Essays with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2017 by montgomerybrandt

The following letter was sent to the students, faculty, staff, and administration of Ascension Episcopal School in Lafayette, Louisiana on Friday, May 5, 2017 in my capacity as school chaplain. It focuses on my recent service as a juror for the 15th Judicial District Court of the State of Louisiana and how my civic obligation reminded me of the message of the cross and significance of Christ’s resurrection for all of humanity. 

Dear Ascension Family,

Some of you may have noticed that I was absent from the school throughout much of the last two weeks. As our students and my faculty and administrative colleagues were returning to school from the Easter Break on April 24, I, on the other hand, was at the Lafayette Parish Courthouse reporting for jury duty. For eight days, I was one of 12 jurors for a civil case in the 15th Judicial District Court of the State of Louisiana. Not only was I selected for the jury, but was selected by my fellow jurors to serve as the foreman.

The experience of jury duty was both good and frustrating. Good in that it gave me a renewed appreciation for the law as the system by which justice should be impartial and objective, regardless of any form of human differentiation. When exercised rightly, both law and authority reflect freedom and the fact that all of us are created equal one with another. To have been able to perform my civic duty in the American legal process was, in many ways, an honor to do.

Yet, the inconvenience this obligation caused, particularly in my ministry to you all, was the source of much frustration. Because of jury duty, I missed several important events—the first school Eucharist after Easter, as well as the Senior chapel service, both at the Downtown Campus; the River Ranch Campus’s last Wednesday morning chapel for this academic year; and the Junior Ring Ceremony out at the Sugar Mill Pond Campus yesterday morning. Having had to miss these events not only was frustrating, but also made me feel sad and, at times, angry.

All of these feelings, in some way, brought me back to Jesus and the purpose of the cross. It is said that “freedom is not free.” The author of Hebrews proclaims that Jesus took on our humanity so that by His death He could destroy death, whereby we have been freed from the bondage of sin and death (Hebrews 2.14-15). Jesus’ death on the cross was for all of us, done so that we who now live through Him would no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us and rose again (2 Corinthians 5.15). The freedom we now have in Christ was not free; it came at a cost that we could not afford. From Christ’s death on the cross have we been declared ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, and free. And from Christ’s resurrection have we been given a new birth into a living hope, into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1 Peter 1.3-4).

My jury duty service helped remind me that Christ’s death on the cross showed just how unconditional God’s love is for all of us and how we are all now called to use our freedom to love and serve others in Christ’s Name. It has made the significance of Christ’s resurrection become meaningful to me in a whole new light. And now that I am back at my office, all of you, the Ascension family, have become even more special to me than you already were.

May Almighty God, who has redeemed us and made us His children through the resurrection of His Son our Lord, bestow upon you the riches of His blessing. Amen. Happy Easter!

Peace,

Father Montgomery+

“What’s It Gonna Be?” (February 12, 2017: The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany–Septuagesima)

Posted in Sermons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2017 by montgomerybrandt

The following sermon was preached on February 12, 2017, being the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany (Septuagesima), at the 10:30am principal Eucharist at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Montevallo, Alabama.

Collect: O God, the strength of all who put their trust in You: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without You, give us the help of Your grace, that in keeping Your commandments we may please You both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Readings: Deuteronomy 30.15-20; Psalm 119.1-8; 1 Corinthians 3.1-9; Matthew 5.21-37

“Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”—Matthew 5.37[1]

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

 I would like to express my appreciation to your Priest-in-Charge for his invitation to preach the Gospel and concelebrate the Eucharist with him here at Saint Andrew’s this post—College Night Sunday.  While I always relish the opportunity to come back to Montevallo, this current visit has been particularly meaningful on two fronts.  First, this year’s Homecoming marked my 10th anniversary as a graduate of the University and brought back wonderful memories from when I myself had the honor of presiding over College Night as Student Government Association president.  It was also during my years at Montevallo that I attended Sunday services here at Saint Andrew’s and had the privilege of residing in the previous Canterbury House, which helped establish the bonds of affection that I share with many of you here.

Second, this visit has provided an opportunity for me to serve with your Priest-in-Charge—one of my first parishioners at Canterbury Chapel in Tuscaloosa when I was first ordained 4½ years ago—for the first time as an ordained colleague.  I have great respect for him and Colleen and pray that their ministry among you, to use the words of the University’s alma mater, will be “years…rich and fruitful.”[2]

This weekend has been a time during which many things have come “full circle.”  It has brought to mind the words of the Psalmist, “Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum” (“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity”).[3]

+               +               +

 “What’s it gonna be: life and good or death and evil?”: that is the question today’s lessons present us.  We are being entreated to

Obey the commandments of the LORD…by loving the LORD your God, walking in His ways, and observing His commandments, decrees, and ordinances…Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.[4]

We are urged to choose God because He Himself is life and good.  “Hope in the LORD,” says the Psalmist, “for with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with Him is great power to redeem.”[5] 

The law, which comes from God, reflects His goodness.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes…The ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.[6]

The law furthermore points us to Christ, God’s Word in the flesh.  “The law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.”[7]  And Christ came “that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”[8]  Here, too, we see a full-circle effect: God’s law, Jesus Christ, and life and goodness bound together.  They are meant to make life rich, full, and productive—as God intended.[9]

Though the law is good because it comes from God, it is also hard because of the same reason.  Saint Paul, in his letter to the Romans, talks about the struggle

I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members…So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.[10]

And Jesus, in today’s Gospel, does not let up.  Instead of toning things down, He ratchets things up.  “You have heard in the past, ‘Do not commit murder.’  But now I tell you: do not be angry.  You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’  But now I tell you: do not lust.  You have also heard in the past, ‘Do not break your promise.’  But now I tell you: do not swear at all.”  What we get today is Jesus not meek and mild, but heavy hitting.  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law,” Jesus said.[11]  He was not kidding!

If Jesus’ words come across as extreme and severe, then you are right.  Today’s Gospel is a real pounding, Jesus bringing down the hammer again and again and again.  It’s as if Jesus is attacking us with merciless mandates.  It makes you think, “If this is the way it is going to be, then why am I still here? Why should I stick around?  Jesus, you are killing me here!  It is just too hard!”

But think about it, though.  Consider, again, what Jesus is saying.  “Do not be angry.  Do not lust.  Do not swear.”  If all of that were to actually be practiced, how lovely would it be?  How lovely would it be if communities like Montevallo, Alabama, Lafayette, Louisiana, and all others became places whose people were all seriously committed to reconciliation?  There would not be the need for “fronts”: “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”  “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven…Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,” we always pray.  How lovely would it be if it was more so?

Louis Armstrong, one of the most pivotal and influential figures of American jazz, in 1966, recorded the now universally known hit song “What a Wonderful World.”  While introducing the song at a concert in 1970, he said this

Some of you young folks been saying to me, “Hey Pops, what you mean, ‘What a wonderful world?’  How about all them wars all over the place?  You call them wonderful?  And how about hunger and pollution?  That ain’t so wonderful, either.”

Well, how about listening to old Pops for a minute.  Seems to me, it ain’t the world that’s so bad but what we’re doing to it.  And all I’m saying is, see, what a wonderful world it would be if only we’d give it a chance.  Love, baby, love.  That’s the secret, yeah.  If lots more of us loved each other, we’d solve lots more problems.  And then this world would be better.  That’s wha’ ol’ Pops keeps saying.

This is what Jesus is inviting us into.  With Jesus today imploring us to not be angry, lustful, and swear, we are being invited into life and good, not evil and certain death.  We “have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with His blood.”[12]  That is the Good News we are today being given.

The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we’ll view Him and His mandates not as harsh, extreme, or inconceivable, but beautiful, inviting, and life-giving.  The more we see Jesus’ mandates for what they truly are, the more our desire will be to strive to live them out.  In Jesus’ mandates is “the truth, and the truth will make you free.”[13]  In Jesus Christ is life and He Himself is the Light of all people.[14]  For me, I cannot have it any other way.  Give me Jesus!

“What if I fail?” you may ask.  I’ll let the Good News speak for itself.

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.[15]

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.[16]

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.[17]

If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.[18]

Have no fear!  “With the LORD there is steadfast love, and with Him is great power to redeem.”[19]  That truly is good news!

So, what’s it gonna be: life and good or death and evil?  Choose life that you may live.  Choose Jesus!  That is the best victory anybody can ever receive.

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.  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] Virginia Powell Figh and Lucy Lynn Underwood, Alma Mater of the University of Montevallo (Montevallo, Alabama)

[3] Psalm 132.1 (133.1) (Latin Vulgate)

[4] Deuteronomy 30.16, 19

[5] Psalm 130.7

[6] Psalm 19.7-8, 9b

[7] Galatians 3.24

[8] John 10.10b

[9] Footnote on Deuteronomy 30.20, The NIV Study Bible (Zondervan, 2011), 299.

[10] Romans 7.21-23, 25b

[11] Matthew 5.17

[12] 1 Peter 1.2

[13] John 8.32

[14] John 1.4

[15] Matthew 11.28

[16] John 3.16

[17] 1 Timothy 1.15

[18] 1 John 2.1-2

[19] Psalm 130.7

December 29, 2013: The First Sunday after Christmas Day (Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Birmingham, Alabama)

Posted in Sermons with tags , , , , , on December 29, 2013 by montgomerybrandt

“…When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”—Galatians 4.4-5[1]

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

During the past year and a half, I have been privileged to serve as the alumni advisor of the Lambda Chi Alpha chapter at the University of Montevallo.  As the chapter’s chief judicial officer, at several instances, I have had to advise its Executive Committee regarding the discipline of brothers unable to fulfill their responsibilities of membership as outlined in the Fraternity’s Constitution and Statutory Code.  Recently, I had a conversation with one of these disciplined brothers, part of which dealt with the reasons for the very existence of the Fraternity’s laws.  To my young brother, I said, “Laws are a system of regulation put in place geared toward the goal of maintaining the common good.  Therefore, Lambda Chi’s laws are in place in order that the very foundation and principles upon which the Fraternity was founded can be maintained.  They are in place to help guide us in being the best brothers that Lambda Chi calls us to be.”  My young brother said, “Brandt, I hear you.  But there are times in which the laws are too strict and don’t take into account a brother’s particular set of circumstances.  Therefore, if we say that we are a Brotherhood, we should be willing to sometimes overlook the laws so that the Brotherhood can be maintained, don’t you think?”

Unfortunately, due to the duties of my office, I was unable to subscribe to my young brother’s thought.  But I completely understood where he was coming from.  What he was saying was that the laws of Lambda Chi Alpha, though good in its intentions, failed in allowing for greater discretion in considering the circumstances that cause a brother to break the rules.  My young brother felt that, at times, the strictures were too impractical, which, in turn, did more to weaken the Brotherhood than strengthen it.  What he was calling for was less of a focus on the strictures of fraternal law and more of a focus on compassion for brothers at times of transgression.  What my young brother wanted was less law and more grace.

In today’s Epistle from Galatians, Paul states “that the law was our custodian until Christ came…”[2]  The word translated as “custodian” in the Revised Standard Version and “disciplinarian” in the New Revised Standard Version is the Greek word paidagogus.  In Paul’s time, the paidagogus was a household slave who led the young boy to school and supervised his conduct.  Though not himself a teacher, but rather more of a moral guide, the paidagogus was charged with protecting the youth from immoral influences.  It would be while under the paidagogus’s temporary care that the young boy’s freedom would be constrained and limited.[3]

So within the course of salvation history, Paul states that the Law was humanity’s paidagogus, put in place by God through Moses to be its guide for moral living.  In verse 19, he states that the Law “was added because of transgressions, till the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made…”[4] Although the Law was given as a measure in which we might better love God and our neighbor, for, as Paul says, “…Love is the fulfilling of the law,”[5] humanity’s transgressions and the brokenness of the human condition made fulfillment of the Law impossible to achieve.  The Law gave to humanity the ability to recognize its sin, but did not have the power to redeem it from sin.  But just as the paidagogus’s role within the young boy’s life was temporary, so does Paul describe the role of the Law within the life of the human creation.  The Law ruled over humanity for only a specified period of time—from that of Moses until the coming of Jesus Christ, the promised offspring.  With Christ came faith to the earth.  Now that faith has come, humanity’s limitations under its paidagogus, the Law, are no more, for the time of salvation is now.

From the Bidding Prayer of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, we are admonished that it should “be…our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels; in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.”[6]  In this season of Christmastide, Paul’s words from Galatians are, again, a reminder to us that Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, has restored the dignity of the human creation and sets us free from the shackles of sin and death.  Today, we are reminded that the days of our confinement under the Law and of judgment are over.  No longer is our relationship with God distorted.  No longer does sin have dominion over us.  No longer do we have anything to fear.  The time of our salvation is now.  The time is now here in which Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, born of woman, born under the Law, redeems us from the constraints of the Law, restoring us, once again, to harmony with God the Father in Heaven.  “From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace; as the Law was given through Moses, so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ.”[7]

How fortunate we are that in Christ’s Incarnation we see God’s promise of action in, revelation to, and redemption of the world come to fruition.  In order for humanity to be saved and our minds fixed back upon Him, God becoming human was a necessary occurrence.  By becoming human, Jesus is, for us, the visible face of an invisible God.  He allows us the opportunity to know God in a way that was previously impossible.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.[8]  And by the offering of Himself as a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice on the cross at Calvary, the Incarnated Christ makes Himself known to us as the Liberator who frees us from the bondage of sin.  The Incarnation has freed us from the bondage of the Law and bestowed to us the gift of grace, freeing us to live unto God in the faith of Jesus Christ.

The Incarnation of Christ is, without a doubt, one of the three most significant events throughout all of human history (the other two being the Crucifixion and the Resurrection).  Through the Incarnation, God has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.[9]  No longer are we confined under the Law.  Now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian.[10]  Through the newborn Jesus we will be granted forgiveness of our sins and be ransomed, healed, and restored people forever.

Alleluia!  Unto us a child is born: O come, let us adore Him.  Alleluia!


[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations contained herein are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Old Testament Section, Copyright 1952; New Testament Section, First Edition, Copyright 1946; Second Edition © 1971 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

[2] Galatians 3.24

[3] Matera, Frank J.  Galatians (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2007), 136, 139.

[4] Galatians 3.19

[5] Romans 13.10

[6] From the Bidding Prayer of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, held at the Chapel of King’s College at Cambridge University on December 24, 2013.

[7] John 1.18 (Common English Bible)

[8] John 1.14

[9] Colossians 1.13-14

[10] Galatians 3.25 (Common English Bible)