Holy Trinity Anglican Church

Sermons and Reflections

The Blessing of Marriage – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 13 OCT 2019

Listen to today’s sermon – The Blessing of Marriage

LESSONS:

First Lesson Genesis 1:26-28; 2:4-9,15-24

Psalm Psalm 67

Second Lesson Ephesians 5:1-2, 21-33

Gospel Mark 10:6-9

COLLECT: O gracious and everliving God, you have created us male and female in your image: Look mercifully upon this man and this woman who come to you seeking your blessing, and assist them with your grace, that with true fidelity and steadfast love they may honor and keep the promises and vows they make; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Companions on the Way – Bernard of Clairvaux – Reflection for 13 OCT 2019

   Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was a 12th Century Cistercian monk, reformer, and mystic. His writings On the Love of God and Commentary on the Song of Songs remain classics of mystical prayer. Two of his insights have been great company on my journey and I pray that you may find company in them as well.

   In the first insight, Bernard describes the four ways or degrees of love we experience. We begin with a love of ourselves for ourself’s sake. This carnal love which seeks satisfaction in the pleasure of self. It is “a perverted will blindly seeking the sovereign good. It makes haste in vain, the plaything of its own vanity, deceived by iniquity.” As we come to realize the emptiness of the promises of self-gratification, we are drawn to seek satisfaction in something beyond ourselves, in God, the Creator. In this way, we come to the second love, the love of God for self’s sake. We love God because of what He can do for us. However shallow this type of love may be, it brings us into the presence of God and as we come to know the goodness of God, we begin to learn the third way of love, loving God for God’s sake. This is “a love most pure, for it is shown simply in holy deeds and truth; most just, for it returns that which it receives. Whoso loves with this love, loves as he is loved, and seeks no more his own, but the things of Jesus Christ, even as Jesus Christ has sought us.” As we dwell deeply in the love of God, we catch glimpses of the fourth way of love, the love of self for God’s sake. This is the mysterious losing and finding of our very self in the love of God, the place within the depth of our soul where we hear and know our true identity as Beloved.  

   While Bernard describes these ways of loving in a seemingly linear way, I find them more to be a like a spiral. God in His gentle love reveals to me the selfishness and futility of an affection. He then invites me to find the satisfaction of the desire that motivates the affection in Him. In satisfying the desire, He draws me into His presence where again I find delight in His presence more than in the fulfillment of my desire. I may even catch the glimpse of the way that the affection and desire were only ways of my soul striving for love. I may hear the call to cease striving to be loved and to simply be loved. I may for a brief instant know and experience the love that God has for me, until the next affection or desire that draws me away from God captures the attention of my heart and the cycle begins anew.

   In the second insight, Bernard instructs how to love others in the love of God. He writes, “The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself.” 

   I keep this wisdom from Saint Bernard close at hand. Whenever I am anxious, frustrated, troubled, or otherwise distracted in ministry, I use it to remind myself of the vital importance of cultivating time to be filled with the love of God before serving in the Name of that same Love. Almost always, I find that the source of my discomfort in ministry stems from trying to love from emptiness rather than fullness. This is a call for me to return to the love of God for God’s sake and be filled. 

   May you be filled with the love of God to overflowing and may you know the depths to which God loves you.

From Idolatry to Healing – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 6 OCT 2019

Listen to Fr Rob’s sermon from the morning service – From Idolatry to Healing

LESSONS:

First Lesson Habakkuk 1:1–13, 2:1-4

Psalm Psalm 37

Second Lesson 2 Timothy 1:1–14

Gospel Luke 17:1-10

COLLECT: Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in continual godliness; that through your protection it may be free from all adversities, and devotedly serve you in good works, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Companions on the Way – Reflection for 6 OCT 2019

   When we traveled in Europe, my wife would grab the Rick Steve’s guide book for the city that we were visiting. Rick would give us tips on the sights to see, the times of day that lines would be shorter, great restaurants, and places to stay to maximize comfort and minimize costs. We could have muddled around the city with only a map and our own determination. We might have eventually stumbled into the same insights, but having Rick’s experience to guide us on the journey saved us time and frustration.

   As we consider our own spiritual journey, we can certainly muddle our way through on our own with only a Bible and our own determination, but having companions along the way saves us much frustration and discouragement. Sometimes our companion is a friend who encourages and challenges us. Our companion might be a pastor or spiritual director who focuses our attention on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and shares insights and lessons on the spiritual journey. We can also look to the guide books of the spiritual journey throughout the Christian tradition. 

   Over the next six weeks as we complete our walk through Ordinary Time, we will explore some insights from some of these companions. We will start this week with the companion who guides us each week, Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, who crafted the Book of Common Prayer as he led the Church of England through the Reformation. 

   The three key ways that Cranmer guides me in my own spiritual journey are in comprehension, anthropology, and common piety. Comprehension refers to the way in which Cranmer crafted the prayer book to comprehend the variety of understandings of theology that circulated during the reformation. Instead of taking a right or wrong stand on opinions and theories that can not be proven, Cranmer crafted the Prayer Book to be faithful to Scripture and comprehensive of the views of divergent parties. Our churches would do well to follow this most Anglican of church traditions. Cranmer’s understanding of humanity, his anthropology, permeates the Prayer Book and leads us in worship toward a transformation of the heart. This anthropology can be summarized as, “What the heart desires, the will directs, and the mind justifies.” Finally, Thomas Cranmer promoted a common piety. He saw the potential for holiness to reside in the common person and not just in the so-called religious in the monasteries. We see this in the Prayer Book as the seven daily prayers of the monastery are consolidated into Morning and Evening Prayer to be prayed in the parish and not just the monastery. We can certainly be thankful to have Thomas Cranmer as our companion on the way as we worship together in Common Prayer.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.