Holy Trinity Anglican Church

Month: August 2018

What about the hard parts? – Reflection for 26 August 2018

In our Gospel today, those who have been following Jesus become dissatisfied by his teaching. They say to Him, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” When we truly dive into Scripture and allow God’s word to permeate our lives, we too come across passages and teachings that cause us to say, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” How should we respond?Perhaps we can take some instruction from our Gospel to look at some responses. As Jesus turns to those who are grumbling, he asks, “Do you take offense at this?” One of our first tasks is to truly define what “this” might be. As we come across a difficult passage of Scripture, we need to look at that passage not in isolation but in the context of the particular book, the context of the entire canon of Scripture, and the historical context in which it was written. Some of the difficult passages may not be offensive to us at all once properly understood. 

If we are still taking offense at Scripture, we need to look at ourselves. We are usually offended by things that challenge a deeply held belief or value. We can ask ourselves what exactly is being challenged. In today’s Gospel, Jesus has just challenged those around Him saying that they have no life apart from Him. They thought they were alive and Jesus called them dead. That is a pretty big challenge indeed! No wonder they were offended.

The question is how they would respond to this challenge between their understanding and the words of Jesus. We face the same question as we take offense at Scripture. Jesus offers three statements that can help guide us.

“What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” In other words, if you believe in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Christ, shouldn’t you also believe what He says? This statement challenges the way we determine truth. Is truth based on our own feelings or understanding, or is truth defined by God. As we realize that Scripture has an authority beyond ourselves, when our beliefs or values are challenged by the Truth in Scripture the challenge becomes, “Do I believe enough in the love of Christ to be changed?”

“The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” This statement draws us into faith as we allow ourselves to be changed at a very deep level by Scripture. It is the promise that even when it may be painful, we are being led to spirit and life.

“No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”  What a relief to know that all this struggle to understand and grow is not up to me. Isaiah reminds us that wisdom, knowledge and understanding are gifts of the Holy Spirit. As we come to these difficult passages, we can pray to the Father for guidance by the Spirit.

Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” I don’t think that the twelve were any less confused by the words of Jesus or any less offended. They simply trusted that Jesus knew what they didn’t and could lead them where they could not go on their own.

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To Whom Shall We Go? Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 26 August 2018

Listen to today’s sermon – To Whom Shall We Go?

LESSONS:

First Lesson             Joshua 24:1-2a;14-25

Psalm                        Psalm 16

Second Lesson        Ephesians 5:21-33

Gospel                      John 6:60-69

COLLECT: Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Road Signs – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 19 August 2018

Today’s Sermon – Road Signs

LESSONS:

First Lesson           Proverbs 9:1-6

Psalm                      Psalm 147

Second Lesson      Ephesians 5:15-20

Gospel                    John 6:53-59

COLLECT: Keep your Church in safety, O Lord; for without your grace the frailty of our nature cannot but make us fall; but in your mercy keep us from all things hurtful, and lead us in all things profitable for our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Praying Simply – Reflection for 19 August 2018

Wisdom calls, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” Proverbs 9:4-6

It may come as a great shock to those of you who know me, but there have been times in my life when I have known so much that I couldn’t learn anything. I simply knew that I was right and nothing would budge me from that stance. While perhaps I was indeed “right,” my arrogance left no room for Wisdom or discernment. 

If I am truly honest, my prayer life often reflects this same arrogance. I often spend more time telling God how He should fix whatever I am praying about than listening for His Will and resting in His Peace. Yet, Wisdom calls not to those wise in their own minds but instead to the simple. How are we then to set aside our arrogance and be simple?

The first task is to cultivate indifference. This is not to be confused with disinterest or a lackadaisical attitude to prayer. Indifference is the acknowledgement that God’s Will is greater than mine and that as I lay a matter before Him in prayer, I am seeking His Will indifferent to whether I like it or not. James describes this as seeking wisdom without having a double mind (James 1:5-8). This is the attitude behind praying as Jesus taught for the Father’s Will and Kingdom. Jesus also showed us how difficult this posture of prayer can be as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal (Luke 22:39-46). Holy indifference brings us to the simpleness that allows us to answer Wisdom’s call.

Once we have answered Wisdom’s call, we must then eat and drink. This is the prayer of listening. Listening prayer is one of the most difficult ways of praying for me. Even after cultivating indifference, I still require a quiet place and the time to be quiet, usually about twenty minutes before I can truly listen. Often in this quiet, the unfinished tasks of the day, the worries or concerns I carry around, or any of the many fears that plague me threaten to distract me. When this happens, I find that naming these distractions and visualizing them as stones that I place before the Cross helps me to listen once again for God. Being still enough to know that God is God (Psalm 46:10) and surrendering all my worries and concerns before Him is indeed a difficult task but it is also the way of life and insight.  

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Believing – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 12 AUG 2018

Listen to Fr Ed’s sermon from the afternoon service – Believing

LESSONS:

First Lesson                 Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Psalm                            Psalm 34:8-15

Second Lesson            Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Gospel                          John 6:37-51

COLLECT: Almighty God, give us the increase of faith, hope, and love; and, so that we may obtain what you have promised, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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A Radical New Perspective – Reflection for 12 August 2018

Have you ever looked through the big lenses rather than the small lenses of a set of binoculars? The view is very different. Someone may have even told you that you were looking through “the wrong end” of the glasses. 

As Israel stands on the banks of the Jordan after forty years of wandering through the wilderness, Moses offers them a different view of their journey. He reminded them of the blessing of manna and the miraculous preservation of their clothes and health. He turns his gaze across the river and envisions for them the blessings that await. Instead of their own narrow perspective, he invites them to see the experience of the wilderness through God’s eternal perspective.

Over thirty generations later, Jesus stands on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and asks Israel to take a different view of Him. Even after witnessing the signs and wonders, the teaching and the power, the crowd still grumbled because they saw Him still in terms of the son of Joseph and Mary, the child they watched grow up. They refute His rightful claim because He does not fit their notion of what the Messiah should be like. Like Moses, Jesus offers them a different perspective on the present. Jesus invites them to see blessing and promise from God’s point of view.

In the early days of the church, Paul invites not only Israel, but the Gentiles as well to share in God’s perspective. Paul has described to the church at Ephesus the Gospel imperative to put away the old self and put on the new self. He goes on to describe the consequences of this new perspective. Paul asks them to put away lies and speak in truth, to put aside anger and put on love, to forgive rather than repay wrongs, to share rather than hoard, to build up rather than tear down with words. Paul invites the church to a new perspective as well. He invites us to look at the world from the perspective of the Cross.

As I look at the culture we find ourselves in today, both within the church and outside the church, I think we might benefit from a new perspective. We seem to spend much time grumbling, complaining, doubting, spinning the truth, speaking rather than listening, separating rather than welcoming, fearing rather than loving, gathering rather than giving, putting down rather than building up with our words. I wonder if we as a church are looking through the wrong end of the binoculars and viewing the Cross through the world rather than viewing the world through the Cross.

We stand today not on the banks of a river or the shore of the sea, but in front of the Table. I invite you to seek a radical new perspective of the week past and the week ahead. What does the world look like from God’s perspective as you look from the Table through the Cross? 

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Enough Already – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 5 August 2018

Listen to Fr Rob’s sermon from the afternoon service – Enough Already!

LESSONS:

First Lesson            Exodus 16:2-15

Psalm                       Psalm 78:1-13

Second Lesson       Ephesians 4:17-25

Gospel                     John 6:24-35

COLLECT: Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your grace that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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What Must We Do? Reflection for 5 August 2018

The crowd asks Jesus, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus responds simply, “Believe in the one He has sent.” In a similar way, Paul encourages the church at Ephesus to “put off the old self” and “Put on the new self.” This seems easy enough…until we actually try it!

When things are going great, the old self doesn’t seem so bad and “believing” in Christ can simply be an intellectual assent on most Sundays. When things aren’t going so well, the old self seems stuck, the new self far away, and actually relying on Christ feels beyond reach. It often seems like just a constant movement from not needing God to not knowing how to find God. So what must we do?

Placing our trust in Jesus and being transformed in Him from old self to new requires a tremendous amount of grace and also some work on our part. Fortunately, God provides grace in abundance like manna in the wilderness. Our work is the work of noticing, habit, and discipline.

The first part of our work is noticing where we encounter the presence of God in daily life. Do you encounter Christ in solitude or community? In Scripture? In liturgy? In study? In prayer? In serving others? The practice of examen can help us with this (see http://holytrinityanglicansa.com/reflection/jesus-in-our-midst-reflection-for-15-april-2018). 

The second part of our work is taking these “noticings” and cultivating them as habits then letting these new habits replace the old habits which were useful in avoiding God. If my old habit is worry, I can cultivate a new habit of prayer as I learn to place my trust in “the one He sent.” If my old habit is seclusion, I can cultivate a new habit of community. If my old habit is busy-ness, I can cultivate a habit of quietness. If my old habit is self-reliance, I can cultivate faith. If my old habit is self-deprecation, I can cultivate a habit of resting in my belovedness in God.

While we are starting to get a little more tangible in the “what to do’s,” we still aren’t to “easy.” That is precisely why these practices are called spiritual disciplines. They take commitment to continue especially when they are not easy. Perhaps they even teach us to let go of a desire for “easy.” The good news is that these disciplines create in us a kind of spiritual muscle memory. By noticing where we encounter God and cultivating the habits that open us to further encounter, we can remember how to come to the place in ourselves where we allow ourselves to encounter God even when we feel far away from Him.

A few books that I find particularly useful:

The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren

Crafting a Rule of Life by Stephen A. Macchia

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The Bread of Life – Sermon from the morning service 5 AUG 2018

Listen to Postulant John Mack’s sermon from the morning service – The Bread of Life

LESSONS:

First Lesson              Exodus 16:2-15

Psalm                         Psalm 78:1-13

Second Lesson         Ephesians 4:17-25

Gospel                       John 6:24-35

COLLECT: Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your grace that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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