Holy Trinity Anglican Church

Month: September 2019

Rich Man Poor Man – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 29 SEP 2019

Listen to Fr Rob’s sermon from the afternoon service – Rich Man, Poor Man

LESSONS:

First Lesson Amos 6:1-7

Psalm Psalm 146

Second Lesson 1 Timothy 6:11-19

Gospel Luke 16:19-31

COLLECT: Merciful Lord, grant to your faithful people pardon and peace; that by your grace we may be cleansed from all our sins and serve you with a quiet mind; 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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Encountering Christ in the Least of These – Reflection for 29 SEP 2019

“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Matthew 25:40

     Over the past several weeks, we have explored how we encounter Christ in the Body and the Blood, as the Body of Christ, as the Word, and in prayer and contemplation. We learn the character and nature of Christ in these encounters. These are “safe” encounters within the boundaries of the church. We can maintain an illusion of control in these encounters and we can even choose to change churches or avoid church altogether if we become uncomfortable. In the poor, the prisoner, the sick, and the stranger, Christ comes uncomfortably into our communities and our daily lives. We no longer have the option to avoid an encounter, instead we must choose to deliberately ignore Christ or to encounter Him in what Saint Teresa of Calcutta called His most distressing disguise.

     Too often I find myself wanting to “do something” for the poor. In truth, I find myself planning how I might do ministry to the poor. I hear others talking about “loving on” the poor or disadvantaged as if the materially poor were incapable of love. Jesus turns this paradigm on its head. Jesus promises that when we are with “the least of these,” we actually encounter Him. How can we actually encounter Christ in ministry with the poor?

     We can turn again to our previous ways of encounter and see how they prepare us for this ministry. These ways of encounter are about expecting and noticing. Just as we come to the Table expecting to encounter Christ, we can approach ministry with the poor, the prisoner, the sick, and the stranger no longer expecting that we will accomplish great things for God, but instead with the expectation that we will encounter Christ with us in suffering, our own and the suffering of others. Scripture, prayer, contemplation, and community teach us to notice the presence of Christ in our midst. It is in this noticing that we are able to see the face of Christ in the least of these.

     The life and ministry of Saint Teresa provides an example of how the practiced habit of noticing, the expectation of encounter, and ministry to the least come together. One of my favorite authors on contemplative practices relates the story of Teresa exercising her authority within the community to personally minister to one of the sickest patients brought to the House for the Dying. Upon his death, she remarked to the community, “I held the dying Christ in my arms today.”

     How will you encounter Christ this week?

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Encountering Christ in Contemplation – Reflection for 22 SEP 2019

Over the past several weeks, we have explored ways of encountering Christ through lectio divina and through prayer. This week, we will explore how we might encounter Christ in contemplation.

     In contemplation, we set aside the busyness of life and open ourselves to encounter with God. We put away our to-do list, our expectations, and our metrics of success and let God set the agenda. Perhaps a conversation with God ensues or perhaps even the contented quietness of silence.

     Contemplation can be scary as we yield control of our prayer to God. Questions like “How do I know I’m finding God?” and “What happens if I do find God?” come to mind. This is why contemplation requires that we have a solid Biblical foundation for understanding the character of God so that we can both recognize Him and trust Him. For this reason, I like to begin contemplative practices in Scripture.

     One practice is imaginative or experiential reading of Scripture. In this practice, we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us as we read a narrative portion of Scripture. The encounter between Jesus and Bartimaeus (Luke 18:35-43) is one of my favorites for this practice. As we read, we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us to fully experience the passage, to hear, smell, feel, taste, and touch. We wait and let the Spirit reveal where we are in the passage. I am amazed at the way that the Holy Spirit guides me into different experiences each time I read a passage in this way. Sometimes, I find myself as Bartimaeus, sometimes as one of the crowd, sometimes at the center of the story and sometimes on the edge. However, I find that wherever I find myself, God has something to say to me that I need (but may not want) to hear. I liken this practice to the Biblical call to “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4).

     Another contemplative practice is centering prayer. In this practice, we choose a word or phrase from Scripture that draws our attention to God. We prayerfully offer this word to God as a way of intentionally attending to the presence of God within and around us. As we notice our attention drifting elsewhere, we gently return to our word and so draw our attention back to God. I liken this practice to the call to “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10).

     A final practice is the practice of silence. One of my mentors described silence as a divine gift. We do not so much practice silence as prayerfully await the grace of God which offers this gift to us. This practice might even be better described as waiting. I find that in my waiting, the cares and worries of life bubble up and threaten to distract me. Instead of pushing them aside, I offer them to God…and wait. I liken this practice to the command “Wait, O my soul, for God alone” (Ps 62:5). 

     Contemplation invites us to encounter Christ not only with our mind but also with our heart, our soul, and our body.

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Faithful Servanthood – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 22 SEP 2019

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

LESSONS:

First Lesson Amos 8:4–12

Psalm Psalm 138

Second Lesson 1 Timothy 2:1–15

Gospel Luke 16:1–13

COLLECT: Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness keep us, we pray, from all things that may hurt us, that we, being ready both in mind and body, may accomplish with free hearts those things which belong to your purpose; 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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A Lost and Found Community – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 15 SEP 2019

Listen to Fr Rob’s sermon from the morning service – A Lost and Found Community

LESSONS:

First Lesson Exodus 32:1-14

Psalm Psalm 51

Second Lesson 1 Timothy 1:12–17

Gospel Luke 15:1-10

COLLECT: O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; 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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Encountering Christ in Prayer

      As we read the accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry in the Gospels, we find Him often in prayer. As we live our lives in expectation of encounter with Christ, we should therefore expect to encounter Him in our times of prayer. What practices of prayer prepare us to recognize Christ when we encounter Him?

     One way to cultivate our awareness of encounter with Christ in prayer and in life is the Prayer of Examen. In this prayer, we begin by praying for Christ to be with us and illuminate our day. We continue by prayerfully reviewing the events of the day in the presence of Christ and noticing the times in which we were aware of His presence with us and the times we were unaware or even willfully disregarded His presence with us. We offer thanksgiving and seek forgiveness as appropriate. We also notice the relationships and challenges which we are unable to reconcile or resolve on our own and seek His intervention. Finally, we look forward in His light, His strength, and His promise at the day that still lies before us.

     Another way that we might expect to encounter Christ in our prayer is in the ways that He prayed. As we look again at the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ prayers, we find Him often engaged in Prayers of Praise. Often, Jesus spontaneously prays, “Father, I thank you…” We can engage in this type of prayer as often as we become aware of the presence of God in our lives. As our awareness increases, we will indeed pray without ceasing!

     We also notice Jesus engaging in the Prayer of Submission. Particularly in the garden of Gethsemane as Jesus faces his betrayal, trial, crucifixion, and death, he prays, “Not my will, but yours, be done.” This is not an easy or casual prayer. Jesus agonized in this prayer to the degree that blood dripped from his pores like sweat. As we are in agony wrestling with our own will to submit to submit to the perfect will of God, we encounter Jesus as Emmanuel, God with Us. He does not leave us alone as we come to grips with our own desire to control and our call to follow in faith. As we encounter Christ in this prayer, we also encounter grace as we walk in His faith when our own falters.

     We also encounter Jesus as Emmanuel in the Prayer of Lament. We lament as we come to see the great dissonance between the justice, mercy, and love of God and our experience of the injustice, cruelty, and hatred of the world around us. We call out to God with David, with Jesus, and all the faithful, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” In the loneliness and despair of our lament, we encounter the suffering of Christ as He waits with us in our pain, sorrow, and confusion. He waits until Grace touches us and we once again praise the justice, love, and mercy of God even in our pain. We praise because in our encounter with the suffering of Christ, we also encounter His Resurrection.

      In your prayers, may you encounter Christ in His Incarnation, Life, Ministry, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension.

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Challenging Our Idols – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 8 SEP 2019

Listen to Fr Rob’s sermon from the morning service – Challenging Our Idols

LESSONS:

First Lesson Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Psalm Psalm 1

Second Lesson Philemon 1-25

Gospel Luke 14:25-35

COLLECT: Lord God, grant your people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil; that we may love you faithfully with all our heart and soul and mind and strength; 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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Encountering Christ as the Word Through Lectio Divina – Reflection for 8 SEP 2019

    I spend a good portion of my day reading. From news articles to books, e-mails to facebook posts, fiction and non-fiction, religious and secular, much of my day involves my brain translating letters into words and seeking some sort of meaning or instruction or perhaps distraction or entertainment. I notice that I read material printed on paper differently than I read electronic text. I read differently when I have a question that I want answered than when I want to learn something new or simply pass the time. As different as what and how I read may be, I realize that most of the time the reason that I read is centered on me. I read selfishly from my own point of view deciding each moment whether I agree or disagree, whether I should continue or stop, whether the author is worth listening to or not. Unfortunately, I often find myself reading Scripture from this same self-centered attitude. In these times, I need a new what, why, and how to read Scripture.

    Since Scripture records God’s revelation of Himself to humanity and Jesus is the fullness of that revelation, I need a practice that removes me from the center of my reading and places Jesus as the focal point. I need a way to approach this reading anticipating an encounter with the Living God, an encounter in which I am no longer the judge of worth or choosing to agree or disagree, but an encounter in which I am transformed. The ancient practice of lectio divina or holy reading provides this was of encounter. This way of reading trusts Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit will come and lead us into all Truth. It trusts that the same Jesus who opened the Scriptures to Cleopas and his friend waits to open them to us.

    The practice of lectio divina guides us through four movements of encounter, Read-Reflect-Respond-Rest.

In the first movement, we prayerfully read the text anticipating that Jesus will speak to us through the text by the power of the Holy Spirit. We read listening for the word that He will give us, the Word we will take with us through the day, the Word of encounter. I find it easier to hear this word if I read the text out loud. 

    Once we hear the word that the Spirit gives to us, we reflect on that word prayerfully considering the meaning God has for us in this word on this day. We allow the word to descend from our head to our heart. We resist the temptation to selfishly distort the word to our own ends and instead allow the word to change and transform us.  

    After reflecting on our word, we respond by praying this word back to God in thanksgiving for His speaking to us, in obedience to His work in and through us, and in supplication that we might have grace to walk in the way that this word is leading us.

    Finally, we rest in the Word through the word we are given. In silence, we sit with God allowing the word He has given us to draw us back into awareness of His presence when our attention wanders. We then carry this awareness with us through the day allowing the word from our holy reading to direct our attention to the Holy One who dwells within and among us. 

    I invite you to explore the ancient rhythm of lectio divina as you Read-Reflect-Respond-Rest in the Word of God.

(A note on selecting texts for lectio divina: While all Scripture is indeed “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” some passages are more accessible to our minds and hearts. I find that the lections for the Daily Office or for Sunday are a good place to start. I find the Gospel lesson and the Psalms are particularly fruitful passages for the Spirit to provide a word for me). 

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Dinner with Jesus – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 1 SEP 2019

Listen to Fr Rob’s sermon from the morning service – Dinner with Jesus

LESSONS:

First Lesson Jeremiah 2:4-13

Psalm Psalm 112

Second Lesson Hebrews 13:1-8

Gospel Luke 14:1,7-14

COLLECT: O Lord, we pray that your grace may always both precede and follow after us, that we may continually be given to good works; 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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Encountering Christ as the Word Made Flesh Among Us – Reflection for 1 SEP 2019

     In our liturgy, we conclude readings from Scripture with the phrase, “This is the word of the Lord.” We encounter God as He has revealed Himself to His people each time we open the Bible. As we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our readings, we also expect to see the Incarnation of God in Jesus revealed just as the Risen Jesus opened the Scripture to the two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27). 

     John begins his Gospel by describing Jesus as the Word of God made flesh who came and dwelt with humanity. This beautiful description of the mystery of the Incarnation awes and inspires me every Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Christ. Unfortunately, I also am tempted to confine the mystery of the Incarnation to Christmas. Instead, we are invited to encounter the Incarnation each time we read Scripture.

     Last week, we explored what it means to encounter Christ as His Body, the Church. In this way, we are invited not only to encounter the Incarnation but also to participate in the Incarnation. The Body of Christ, the Church, participates in the Incarnation as the Word of God revealed in Scripture is made flesh in us. We are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the image and likeness of Christ as we invite the grand story of Scripture to be the defining story of our lives. Paul describes this as no longer being conformed to this world but instead being transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we may corporately know and do the will of God as the Body of Christ (Rom 12:1-8).

     Finally, we are sent out into our community as the image of Christ. We participate in the Incarnation as the Word of God is made flesh once again in the Body of Christ to bring light to those who sit in darkness and to walk in the way of peace. The Church has sometimes described the role of the celebrant in the Eucharist as acting in persona Christi, that is in the same way that an actor “becomes” someone else on stage, the celebrant “becomes” or speaks in the voice of Christ in the Eucharist. The danger of this view is that when confined to the celebration of the Eucharist, it tends toward a clericalism that is not healthy for the Body. When we combine this view with an understanding of the priesthood of all believers, we can see that we are all called and formed to go into the world in persona Christi as the Word of God is made flesh in us. We are a Eucharistic people gathered, blessed, sent, and given to the world to manifest Christ as Good News to a broken and beautiful world.

     May we all encounter Christ as the Word is made flesh among us!

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