Holy Trinity Anglican Church

Sermons and Reflections

Committing to Prayer – Reflection for 23 SEP 2018

A few weeks ago at our annual meeting, I set out three goals for our growth as individuals and as a parish, commitment to the Gospel, commitment to prayer, and commitment to community. Last week I wrote about the first of these, our commitment to the Gospel. This week, we will explore our commitment to prayer.  

As we have read through Mark during this season of Ordinary Time, we have see how Jesus called the twelve “to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons” (Mark 3:14-15). This central message of Mark’s Gospel also provides a way of understanding prayer as encountering God, being transformed, and being sent.

Committing to prayer is committing to encountering God. Just as Christ called the Twelve to “be with him,” He calls us as well to “be with him” in prayer. Jesus also tells us that He will send the Holy Spirit to guide us and comfort (John 14:15-31; John 16:7-15). In the Spirit and the Son, we also encounter the Father. As we remember the accounts of Moses, Elijah, Isaiah and others encountering the glory of the Father, we can begin to understand the transforming power of prayer as encountering God. 

Committing to prayer is committing to being transformed. Most of the Gospel of Mark is about the transformation of the Twelve in the presence of Christ. Their understanding of God, of themselves, of others, and of the Kingdom is challenged and transforming by seeing Jesus at work in the world, by hearing Jesus teach, and by yielding to the correction of Jesus. In prayer, our “eyes of our hearts” are enlightened as we encounter the power of Christ at work in the world, hear His teaching in Scripture, and yield to the ways in which He corrects and transforms us (Eph 1:15-23).

Committing to prayer is committing to others. Jesus calls the Twelve to transformation so that He can send them into the world to proclaim the Kingdom and bring healing to others. In our Gospel today, we see that true power in the Kingdom is not power over others as the world would see power but instead the power to serve others. By praying for others, we begin to learn the power of the Kingdom.

While it is tempting to set out lofty goals for a commitment to prayer in terms of number of hours each day or specific items, instead I invite you to set out your own commitments to pray. Consider first the times and places you already encounter God and cultivate these as times of prayer. Consider the ways in which God is already inviting you to be transformed by encountering His love and set a time each week to prayerfully listen and reflect on the ways that God has invited you to be transformed, the ways you have yielded, and the ways you have resisted. Consider the people already in your life and how you might pray for them and for your relationship with them. 

Committing to prayer can be frightening for a number of reasons, but we can take comfort in Paul’s encouragement that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

I pray that we will grow in our commitment to prayer. I pray that together we will pray for one another, our parish, our neighbors and I pray that we will grow in our ability to listen and experience God in our prayer.

Greatness of a Child – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 23 SEP 2018

Listen to today’s sermon – Greatness in a Child

LESSONS:

First Lesson                    Wisdom 1:16-2:1,12-22

Psalm                               Psalm 54

Second Lesson               James 3:16-4:6

Gospel                             Mark 9:30-37

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.

Help My Unbelief – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 16 SEP 2018

Listen to Fr Rob’s Sermon from the morning service – Help My Unbelief

LESSONS:

First Lesson            Isaiah 50:4-9

Psalm                       Psalm 116

Second Lesson       James 2:1-18

Gospel                     Mark 9:14-29

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.

Committing to the Gospel – Reflection for 16 SEP 2018

If we are to grow in our commitment to the Gospel, yielding to the power of the Gospel of Christ to transform us and to transform the way we see others, we must first understand the Gospel. As easy as it seems at first try to define the Gospel, we soon run into a variety of descriptions and realize why there are four complementary books of the Bible that are characterized as Gospels.

I invite you to pause before reading further and attempt to summarize the Gospel of Christ as you understand it. As we sort through these descriptions and try to define and describe the Gospel, we must first remember that the Gospel is “Good News.” 

At the heart of any description of the Gospel is a loving God who reconciles Himself with His unloveable creatures through Jesus Christ. The tragedy of the Gospel is that as unloveable creatures, we often choose to remain unreconciled. We either try in vain to make ourselves loveable or we try in vain to find a love like God’s in things that are not God. 

The transforming power of the Gospel is simple and yet takes us a lifetime to master. We grow in the Gospel as we set aside the false ways in which we try to feel loved and the false ways we try to be loveable. We grow in the Gospel as we rest in the Gospel truth that we are beloved by God. We grow in the Gospel as we see those around us as beloved. We grow in the Gospel as we set aside our attempts to determine whether others are loveable or not. We grow in the Gospel when we set aside our empty attempts to use others to make ourselves feel loved.

As a congregation formed (and transformed) by liturgy and Sacrament, we don’t have to look far for a good summary of the Gospel. We hear this summary each week in the Prayer of Consecration as we pray, “Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself; and when we had sinned against you and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent your only Son into the world for our salvation. By the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary he became flesh and dwelt among us. In obedience to your will, he stretched out his arms upon the cross and offered himself once for all, that by his suffering and death we might be saved. By his resurrection he broke the bonds of death, trampling Hell and Satan under his feet. As our great high priest, he ascended to your right hand in glory, that we might come with confidence before the throne of grace.” We participate in the ongoing story of the Gospel as we encounter Christ in the Eucharist. We are then sent out to live the Gospel throughout the week. 

However, as the Disciples discovered in today’s Gospel reading, something more is require for us to know true healing in ourselves and to bring the healing power of the Gospel with us into the world. We must also be committed to prayer.

Create In Us a Clean Heart – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 2 SEP 2018

Listen to today’s sermon – Create In Us a Clean Heart

LESSONS:

First Lesson             Deuteronomy 4:1-9

Psalm                        Psalm 15

Second Lesson        Ephesians 6:10-20

Gospel                      Mark 7:1-23

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.

Looking Back and Forward – Reflection for 2 September 2018

Over the past several months, we have described a positive vision of the Anglican tradition that doesn’t rely on comparison to other traditions:

“A Biblical faith, rooted in ancient tradition, relevant for the questions and challenges of today, and with a bright hope for the future.”

We have described the teaching values of the parish as “submitted to the authority of Scripture, formed by liturgy and Sacrament, and joined together on a Sacred journey.” We have further described that Sacred journey as learning to live inside out by allowing our identity in Christ as beloved children of the Father to inform the way we see ourselves, our circumstances, and those around us.

As I look forward to the coming year, I’ve already mentioned that I would like to have a parish retreat and to have a catechesis class that leads up to confirmation and reception by the Bishop. I’m still working to schedule these events.

Beyond these events, I have three goals for our growth as individuals and as a parish. First, I pray that we grow in our commitment to the Gospel. I pray that we yield to the power of the Gospel of Christ to transform us and to transform the way we see others. Second, I pray that we grow in our commitment to prayer. I pray that together we will pray for one another, our parish, our neighbors and I pray that we will grow in our ability to listen and experience God in our prayer life. Third, I pray that we will grow in our commitment to community. I pray that as we experience the inevitable tensions, misunderstandings, disagreements, and hurts that come with being a member of any group that we will grow such that Christ’s love in us and our love for one another is stronger than anything that might come between us.

Over the next several weeks, we will use this space to explore what it means to be:

Committed to the Gospel

Committed to Prayer

Committed to Community

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.

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.

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.

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.