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Sunday, January 20, 2019

"God never loses sight of those God loves and chooses. Israel went through many trials and conflicts, within and without, but God never abandoned her." John+

Resultado de imagen para The Wedding Feast, photo?
A Cinderella People
          You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.  You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; (Is. 62)
          Reading the scriptures this week, I thought of the story of Cinderella.  When her loving parents died, a young maiden was left with nothing but a selfish, hardened Aunt and two spoiled cousins, who make her life miserable and name her “Cinderella.”Unbeknown to her, while walking in the woods, she meets a real prince and each experience “love at first sight,” but they both have to return to their respective lives:  The Prince to his castle and Cinderella back her pots and pans and house cleaning.  The Prince, wanting to find her again, arranges a royal ball and invites all the maidens of the land, and the usual royal types, attend.  The mean Aunt and jealous cousins do everything they can to prevent Cinderella from attending the Royal Ball, but finally, with the help of a Fairy Godmother, Cinderella is able to attend in style.  When the Prince sees her, he is overwhelmed with love and desire.  They dance and win the admiration of all, but when the clock strikes midnight, Cinderella must leave hastily, losing her glass slipper, and returns home.  The Prince organizes a search for the maiden who fits the slipper and finally, with much difficulty, finds Cinderella and makes her his wife and future Queen.  A very happy ending ensues.
          Why recount the story of Cinderella in a sermon? The reason is because the story of Israel, and indeed, the Church, is a Cinderella story.  God never loses sight of those God loves and chooses.  Israel went through many trials and conflicts, within and without, but God never abandoned her.  The Church of God, in the eyes of the world a Cinderella, experiences many trials, within and without, but the Prince, Jesus, finds her and brings new hope and life.  Jesus the Bridegroom makes this “Cinderella” his Bride.
          The human state of Marriage is a symbol of the Covenant between Christ and the Church.  The Church looks poor and dirty, like Cinderella, but has a real beauty, hidden by all the grime.  The Holy Spirit, like the Fairy Godmother in the story who helped Cinderella get to the Ball, will help the Church get to the Marriage Feast of Jesus the Lord and Prince of Peace.  I hope the analogy doesn’t limp too much!
          When Paul says “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit,” he is talking about a profound statement of loyalty and love.  Paul as a Roman citizen was so familiar with the statement (and who knows, maybe he had to declare it on occasion himself) that “Caesar is Lord.”  The Romans really meant it:  Caesar was their Lord and Master.  If a person didn’t confess that truth when required, they would face the  death penalty.  For believers in Jesus, on the other hand, to confess “Jesus is Lord” put them in direct opposition to the Roman Empire.  The Romans could say “Cursed be Jesus” with impunity, but Jesus’ followers would be put to death if they refused to worship Caesar.  We’re talking real politics here:  Where does your fundamental loyalty lie?  Is it with Caesar, representing the powers of this world, or Jesus?
          Jesus wasn’t planning on it, but his first “Sign” of who he was happened at a wedding in Cana.  Jesus and his disciples had been invited to the wedding along with his mother.  Weddings then were long, festive occasions, lasting some days.  Plenty of wine was essential for the celebration.  When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother, asks Jesus to do something about it, and then walks away.  Obedient to his mother, Jesus sees six large stone jars, used in Jewish ritual washings for purification, has them refilled with water, which is transformed into the best wine the experienced steward ever tasted.
          Recently at a wedding I used this “miracle” text to tell the couple that they were the miracle.  Jesus was transforming their lives (we’re 90% water aren’t we?) into the best wine- love that would never run out for as long as they lived.  Isn’t it true, a marriage of two people, with all their individual backgrounds, differences, and experiences, who stay together for the rest of their natural lives, is a miracle of God’s grace!  Don’t you agree?
          This is nice interpretation I think for a wedding sermon, but the story of Jesus changing the water into wine has an even deeper meaning.  Jesus calls for the “ritual” water jars used by the Jews to purify themselves for ritual (they weren’t for drinking) and when they are refilled with water, Jesus transforms the water into the finest wine ever.  Jesus is replacing the ritual vessels with the New Wine of his Kingdom come.  This is, pardon the pun, a real “sea-change” of perspective:  Jesus is the new Lord, over all kingdoms of the world and all the people of the earth, good or bad, are invited to the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.  Jesus is the Lamb who was sacrificed for them (and all of us) that they might be saved from the harm they do to each other.
          Every Holy Eucharist is a foreshadowing of the Marriage Feast:  fine Bread and Wine enjoyed now by a community, regarded by many as a Cinderella people.  The Good News is the Prince will find us!  
Amen!
John+
        
St. Alban

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.

The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE

*The Anglican Church in Central America (Anglican Communion)
The Most Reverend Julio Murray, Archbishop and Primate, IARCA


The Rt. Rev Silvestre Romero, Bishop of Guatemala
The Right  Reverend Silvestre Romero, Bishop of Guatemala

Anglican Communion

*The Anglican Church in Central America (Anglican Communion) 
           

Sunday, January 13, 2019

"The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons." The Reverend John Smith

Resultado de imagen para Holy spirit fire, photo?
On Fire!
          This week I’ve been thinking a lot about my birthday in 1949*.  Not very long after I was born my parents took me to the church to be baptized.  I grew up as a little boy seeing that having faith in God was important to my parents:  I saw them kneeling down and praying before Mass every Sunday.  They never missed church unless they were sick.  I’m sure this was their way of trying to raise me in “the Christian faith and life” as parents promise to do when a child is baptized.
          Twenty six years later I was ordained a priest in 1975, but it took me a while to realize that my ministry began many years before.  Probably the most important sentence in the Book of Common Prayer, that would make the greatest difference in the spread of the faith, is found in the Catechism on page 855.  In the section on “The Ministry” the question is asked:  Who are the ministers of the Church? And the answer:
          The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.
          Baptized lay persons are to “represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world.”
          Imagine if every baptized person realized and lived as a minister of the Christ, instead of thinking that the ordained were the only “real” ministers of the Church?  The role of the ordained person is to train and help equip the ministers of the Church, baptized lay persons, to carry out their ministry of making Christ present in the world.  Just as Jesus began his ministry after his baptism, we begin growing into our ministry after our baptisms, if as infants, then with the help of our parents, or when as adults we renew our baptismal vows later in life.
          In order to carry out our ministry we are given the Holy Spirit at the time of our baptism.  Sometimes, depending on how we are raised in the faith, the Holy Spirit can remain dormant in us, needing to be awoken in us.  In passages about receiving the Holy Spirit, the word used for “receiving” in the Greek is not a word that means passively waiting for the Spirit to be active in us (decomai), but an active asking and seeking and taking hold of the Spirit (lambano) that we have been given.  After Jesus was baptized he spent time in prayer and then set out to bring Good News.  Prayer, our own and others for us, activates the Holy Spirit in us even if it has been “asleep” in us for a long time.
          The main symbol describing the Holy Spirit is fire, but what kind of fire?  John the Baptist warned those who refused to repent that they would be thrown like chaff into the unquenchable fire.  This “unquenchable fire” probably refers to the garbage dump fire, just outside of Jerusalem, that never went out.  This garbage fire was built, archeologists tells us, on the site where child sacrifice was performed at a low point in Israel’s history.  Remember, a couple of weeks ago, when I said that John the Baptist was cut from a different cloth than Jesus?  John was the last great example of the sacrificial model:  repent or burn.  When Jesus baptizes in the Holy Spirit and fire it is a different kind of fire:  not the fire of sacrifice, but the fire of love.  God’s love is the new “unquenchable fire.”
          When we try to minister God’s love in the world, even if we are rejected or victimized, God the Holy Spirit (paraclete) stands alongside with us, whatever happens.  God chose each one of us.  Just as Isaiah prophesied to the Jews in exile in Babylon, the same prophetic words can be addressed to us:
          Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
          We, the baptized, are ministers of God already.  Let us ask for the Holy Spirit to be renewed in us.  Take hold of the Spirit of love.  God has our back.
          Today, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we renew the vows we took, or were taken for us by our parents, that made us ministers of the Church to be on fire to serve and bring the God’s love to everyone we meet.  Amen!
John+
* HAPPY BIRTHDAY to The Reverend John Smith!  Hurray, ole' and Dios Bendiga.
St. Alban

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.

The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE

*The Anglican Church in Central America (Anglican Communion)
The Most Reverend Julio Murray, Archbishop and Primate, IARCA


The Rt. Rev Silvestre Romero, Bishop of Guatemala
The Right  Reverend Silvestre Romero, Bishop of Guatemala

Anglican Communion

*The Anglican Church in Central America (Anglican Communion)

Sunday, January 6, 2019

" All the kingdoms of the world, with all their wealth and power, will pass away. Only the Kingdom of Heaven, inaugurated with the birth of Jesus, will last forever." John+


Resultado de imagen para epiphany free photos=
The Kingdom That Lasts Forever
          The Feast of the Epiphany falls on a Sunday this year.  It is good that it happens like this every 6-7 years or so, making it possible for most of the church to experience the meaning behind the three Magi or Kings coming to pay homage to the Christ Child.  Let’s try to get at the meaning of this visit, whether the CNN cameras could catch it on film or not!
          Kings reign for a time, during a period of an empire.  I did a little research on how long an “empire” lasts.  It seems that since the beginning of time, empires have lasted, depending on who is doing the research, about 215 to 350 years.  One empire, the Vedic empire of India, lasted 1100 years.  A couple of empires lasted only 6 decades or so.  Cliodynamics, the mathematical study of empire duration, using what’s calledexponential distribution, concludes that an empire’s chance of dying is the same every year.  When you’re living in an empire (granted a word we don’t use much in our day), like our American one, you think that your empire will last forever, with all its wealth, resources, and influence, but, all empires die.  Like the mutual fund prospectus says “Past performance is not indicative of future results.”
          This is the significance of the visit of the three Kings from afar coming to “worship” the Child:  All the kingdoms of the world, with all their wealth and power, will pass away.  Only the Kingdom of Heaven, inaugurated with the birth of Jesus, will last forever.  But why is this?  The reason is this:  The human kingdoms of this world live, and eventually die, because they thrive by a sacrificial model:  some people have to be sacrificed (sadly) and die for the empire for its leadership to survive, remain in power, and keep the empire’s “sacred” values intact.  After a time, either people can’t stand the sacrifices anymore and the empire implodes, or, a rising new empire destroys the old one.
          The Kingdom of God, on the other hand, which began with the Incarnation, can and will endure forever, because it is based on a different model:  love, mercy, and forgiveness.  No one has to be put to death or sacrificed for the Kingdom to continue.  The sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross and his subsequent resurrection makes this possible.  Real love, mercy, and forgiveness will be present somewhere in this world, and continue to exist and spread, through the preaching of the Gospel.
          But the Kingdom of God has had its problems trying to live without a sacrificial model.  The theology of the Atonement:  that Jesus’ sacrifice, his death on the Cross, was required by God’s justice in order for God to love us and forgive us our sins, is problematic.  The problem is requiring Jesus’ death to make us lovable to God and forgivable.  God, like no human king, needs no sacrifice to be made, in order to maintain power.  If God is love, there is no deficit or sacrifice necessary.  God loves all God’s children, even the wayward ones.  Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross was done out of God’s love for us, so that we might learn a different way to live, without killing one another, with the Holy Spirit’s help.  It is no coincidence, that when Atonement theology took front stage in the church (SS Anselm and Aquinas, 12th Century), and sacrifice was understood as being necessary, the Crusades began:  kill the infidels and the Kingdom of God will spread.  Jesus is merciful, but God’s wrath must be brought upon unbelievers.
          When “salvation” is based upon correct believing and not on showing love and mercy to others, things can get off course.  When the goal is saying the right things in order to be saved and “get to heaven,” and the focus is on “another world” and not onthis world, bad things can happen.  Jesus’ focus was completely on saving the creatures of God in this world from the harm they do to one another.  Jesus’ brothers and sisters who lay down their lives for this end will rise to new life as he did.  The Holy Eucharist we receive is the pledge of resurrection life:  the one who eats this bread will live forever.  This is Epiphany:  God’s way manifest to us!  
Amen!
John+
St. Alban

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.

The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE

*The Anglican Church in Central America (Anglican Communion)
The Most Reverend Julio Murray, Archbishop and Primate, IARCA

The Rt. Rev Silvestre Romero, Bishop of Guatemala
The Right  Reverend Silvestre Romero, Bishop of Guatemala

Anglican Communion

*The Anglican Church in Central America (Anglican Communion)