Holy Trinity Anglican Church

Sermons and Reflections

What Does It Mean To Be Christian? – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 18 AUG 2019

Listen to Fr Rob’s sermon from the morning service – What Does It Mean To Be Christian?

LESSONS:

First Lesson Jeremiah 23:23-29

Psalm Psalm 82

Second Lesson Hebrews 12:1-14

Gospel Luke 12:49-56

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.

Encountering Christ in the Body and the Blood – Reflection for 18 August 2019

As we consider encounters along the way in our spiritual journey, let us start with the high point of the Emmaus road story (Luke 24:13-35). As Cleopas and his friend invite the stranger who has joined them to stay and dine with them at the end of the day, Jesus is revealed to them as he takes, blesses, breaks, and gives bread. We celebrate this same miraculous revelation of the risen Christ each week in the Eucharist. Just as the revelation of Christ at the table in Emmaus is the high point of the story of Cleopas and his friend, the revelation of Christ at the Table each week is the high point of our story. All of our prayer, study, ministry, and service leads us to the Table and all of our prayer, study, ministry, and service result from our encounter with Christ at the Table. 

   What does it mean when we say that we encounter Christ in the Body and the Blood? Throughout the history of the Church, a great variety of worthy, faithful, and wise Christians have attempted to describe in human terms the mystery we encounter. Since this mystery is of heavenly and not human origin, all have in some way fallen short of describing the fullness of the Real Presence we encounter at the Table. Also, since the manner of our encounter is by Faith and not by our other faculties, our description should be in the terms of faith, that is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). 

   It is in the terms of Faith that I offer these descriptions of the encounter at the Table. As the Articles of Religion describe, it is by faith that we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ in a heavenly and spiritual manner. Since it is our temporal and physical bodies that walk to the Table and consume the Bread and the Wine, something must happen that allows us to at the same time partake in this heavenly and spiritual manner. Either heaven must descend to earth or earth must ascend to heaven in some way. While there are faithful ways of describing the mystery of the Eucharist from either perspective, I find that the liturgy calls us to be raised heavenward for the encounter as we lift up our hearts and join our voices to the heavenly chorus of angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven. Indeed in the celebration of the Eucharist, the temporal and physical existence we call “real” is lifted into the eternal and heavenly realm where we encounter the One who is truly “Real.”

   We may also use terms of Faith to describe how we can say that the Bread and the Wine are the Body and Blood of Christ. The words the Fathers used regarding the nature of Christ in the Incarnation may also be used to describe the nature of Christ in the Eucharist. The Bread is truly bread and truly Christ’s Body and the Wine is truly wine and truly Christ’s Blood, “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together.”

Encountering Christ in the Body and the Blood   Despite the inadequacy of any attempt to articulate the mystery of the Eucharist, we can be confident that by Faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we indeed encounter the risen Christ at the Table. In this encounter, as in all encounters with Christ, we “beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). May our eyes be opened, and may we recognize Him.

Prepared By Love – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 11 AUG 2019

Listen to Fr Ed’s sermon from the evening service – Prepared By Love

LESSONS:

First Lesson              Genesis 15:1-6

Psalm                         Psalm 33

Second Lesson        Hebrews 11:1-16

Gospel                       Luke 12:32-40

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.

Encounters on the Journey – Reflection for 11 AUG 2019

For the first seven weeks of this season after Trinity, we have looked at the way our parish is Submitted to the Authority of Scripture, Formed by Liturgy and Sacrament, and Joined Together in a Sacred Journey. In the remainder of the season after Trinity, we will look at the ways in which we journey together. The Collect from the Daily Office for Thursday Evening, and the journey with the risen Christ to Emmaus which it recalls, is a fitting way to begin our consideration of our Sacred Journey.

Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.    

Over the next seven weeks, we will consider our encounters with the risen Christ in our own journey as we explore the ways we encounter Christ in the Body and Blood, as His Body the Church, as the Word made flesh among us, in prayer and contemplation, and in the least of these. For the final seven weeks of the season, we will consider the companions, ancient and contemporary, who journey with us. 

As we begin considering our Sacred Journey, I invite you to spend some time this week with Cleopas and his friend as they encounter Christ on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). What hopes, fears, joys, disappointments, questions, doubts, and wonders are you bringing on our journey? When have you been most aware and most unaware of Christ walking alongside of you? When has your heart burned as Scripture touched you deeply? How have you seen or how do your wish to see Moses, the prophets, and all of Scripture revealing Christ? How have you encountered Christ in prayer? In what ways have you encountered Christ in community and at the Table? In what ways has Christ surprised you?

The Pretender – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 4 AUG 2019

Listen to Fr Rob’s sermon from the morning service – The Pretender

LESSONS:

First Lesson                 Ecclesiastes 1:12–18, 2:1-11

Psalm                            Psalm 49

Second Lesson            Colossians 3:5-17

Gospel                           Luke 12:13-21

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.

Joined Together on a Sacred Journey – Reflection for 4 AUG 2019

   Over the past several weeks, we have considered what it means for our parish to be submitted to the authority of Holy Scripture and formed by Liturgy and Sacrament. For the remainder of Ordinary Time, we will look at the ways in which we are joined together on a Sacred Journey.

   To begin, let us consider that we are joined together as a parish. How are we joined? We might consider that we gather together by choice or preference or convenience. Some might consider that a church, but the parish has a broader meaning. Traditionally, a parish was defined by geography rather than attendance. The parish included all of the people within the area, whether they attended the church in the parish or not. This traditional definition may not fit with the multiple denominations and increased mobility of today, but is is instructive to consider that there may be more than personal choice involved in the joining together of the parish. We might instead consider that the Holy Spirit has a role in uniting or joining us together as a parish, and if the Spirit is active in joining us, the Spirit is also involved in drawing us into the community of the parish. Paul describes this work of the Spirit in forming church as one body with each of us as individual members. In this way, we suffer together, we rejoice together, we journey together. 

   What does it mean to be on a Sacred Journey. As we look within the Biblical narrative, we find a number of journeys. We see Abram called to journey from Ur to Canaan. We see the Exodus journey from slavery through the wilderness and into the promise. Later, we see the journey of disobedience into exile and the journey of redemption in the return from exile. In our Gospel narrative, we are following Jesus and his disciples as they journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. Later, the narrative of the spread of the gospel follows Paul as he journeys in obedience to the call of Christ. We find in the Biblical narrative and also reflected in our own lives that our journey may be one of obedience to God, of disobedience, or even of ignorance. Thus we describe our parish as on a Sacred Journey to remind ourselves that we are following God as we journey. This is a journey of transformation, a journey that will often lead us through wilderness and into promise. 

Formed by Liturgy and Sacrament – The Eucharist – Reflection for 28 JUL 2019

 In a few weeks, we will explore more deeply the encounter with Christ that occurs in the Eucharist, but this week we will look at the way we are formed by the liturgy as we celebrate the sacrament of the Eucharist. 

   Formation of any kind occurs through repetition. Repetition changes the structure of the brain such that groups of neurons are activated as a single unit. Musicians are formed by repetition of scales and etudes until the note printed on a page becomes an action of hand and mouth, breath and ear. Music theory becomes a matter of nature that can later be explained and understood. We are formed in liturgy by repetition such that prayer becomes reflexive and theology becomes a matter of our nature that can later be explained or explored.

   As a spiritual practice, the liturgy encompasses a special type of formation by repetition. The liturgy of the Eucharist does not begin at the church with words or with music. The liturgy begins as the Holy Spirit stirs in us a desire to gather for prayer, worship, and encounter. As we gather in community to celebrate the Eucharist, we are also formed and shaped not only individually but communally into the likeness of Christ. 

   This is a radically counter-cultural formation. Against a culture that seeks to form us in pride and competition, the liturgy calls us to humility and cooperation. Against a culture that fears scarcity, the liturgy calls us into the Kingdom of enough. Against a culture broken by sin which still hides in shame as God calls, the liturgy invites to dine at the Table in the intimate presence of the Risen Christ. Against a culture that shouts “My body, my choice,” in the liturgy we hear, “This is my Body given for you.” 

   The liturgy of the Eucharist also forms us as a people of atonement. If we look at the Day of Atonement described in Leviticus as the example of atonement, we see that the high priest enters into the presence of God on behalf of the people after being cleansed from the pollution of death in the form of sin and impurity. However, being “not dead” is not enough and the priest must also bring life represented by the blood of the sacrifice in order to be present with the Living God. We can find this interpreted in the work of Christ in the book of Hebrews. We can also find this pattern of cleansing (becoming not dead), filled with life through Christ, and welcomed into the presence of the Living God in the patterns of the liturgy. The liturgy subtly forms and shapes us to be a people who are cleansed, given life, and present before God for the sake of the world.

   However, our formation is not an end in itself. We are formed by the Eucharist into the eucharist pattern. Just as Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples saying “This is my Body.” We are formed as His Body to be taken from our daily cares and occupations as we are gathered in worship. We are blessed by ministry of Word and Table. Like Jesus feeding the thousands by breaking bread, what seems like division becomes multiplication as our gathering is broken as we depart from one another. Just as the liturgy begins long before we come to church, the liturgy also continues as we are given by the Holy Spirit as the Body of Christ to the world.

Teach Us to Pray – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 28 JUL 2019

Listen to Fr Rob’s sermon from the morning service – Teach Us to Pray

LESSONS:

First Lesson               Genesis 18:20-33

Psalm                          Psalm 138

Second Lesson          Colossians 2:6-15

Gospel                         Luke 11:1-13

COLLECT: Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Formed by Liturgy and Sacrament – The Sacrament of Baptism – Reflection for 21 JUL 2019

   Last week, we described Sacraments as both affective and effective. A Sacrament actually accomplishes that which is promised by God and proclaimed in the Liturgy while at the same time we feel and experience Grace. As we consider this week the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, it is reasonable to consider what is actually accomplished.

   As always, our first look should be to Scripture. How does Scripture describe what happens in baptism? Jesus commissions the Apostles and through them the church to walk in his authority, going about making disciples by teaching them all that He commanded and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised to be present to them for all time in these actions (Matthew 28:18-20). Thus, we expect and anticipate to meet the power and the presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Baptism. Peter declares to those who ask what they must do to be saved, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Paul describes baptism as participation in Christ’s death so that we may rise with Him in new life (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12). In baptism, we are cleansed from sin and restored into newness of life.

   Next, we turn to the 39 Articles. Article XXVII states, “Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men [and women] are discerned from others that be not christened, but is also a sign of Regeneration or new Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the church; the promises of forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, and visibly signed and sealed; Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.”   

   Finally, we turn to the liturgy for Holy Baptism. In the instructions for the service in the Book of Common Prayer we find that the appropriate time and place for Holy Baptism is during the Sunday service. In this, we are reminded that baptism is not an individual rite but a communal activity. Before the baptism the sponsors, parents, Godparents, candidates, and congregation are called upon to renounce the devil, turn toward God, and walk in faithful service. We see these themes repeated in prayers over those who are baptized and over the water of baptism. For the purpose of this short exploration of baptism, the prayer of thanksgiving over the water describes well what happens to form us by the Sacrament of Baptism.

   We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are made regenerate by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

   Recently, I talked with someone who had recently participated in a naturalization ceremony to become a citizen of the United States. As this person described the power and the joy they experienced as they were proclaimed a citizen of this country, I could not help but reflect on the joy we experience as we consider that in our baptism we are proclaimed by God as His Children and citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Seeing the Kingdom – Sermon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church 21 JUL 2019

Listen to Fr Rob’s sermon from the morning service – Seeing the Kingdom

LESSONS:

First Lesson                  Genesis 18:1-14

Psalm                             Psalm 15

Second Lesson             Colossians 1:21-29

Gospel                           Luke 10:38-42

COLLECT: O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.