Friday, January 31, 2014
Devotion on the Miracles of Christ (Introduction) - 31 January 2014, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. (John 2:11)
There are more than thirty-five documented miracles of Jesus in the New Testament, but He has performed far more than a mere thirty-five. You and I are miracles in at least two separate ways: 1) we came by miracle of birth having our life imparted to us by God in the darkness of our mother’s womb. That, my friends, is an amazing miracle. 2) The second great miracle is that of our salvation. It is a truly miraculous love that deigns to die in our stead to save us from our sins as Christ did on that rough-hewn cross at Calvary. There was nothing ‘good’ or ‘lovely’ about you and me, yet Christ died for us. This is the grandest miracle of all for me. All others are mere secondary to this last miracle.
Our scripture reference text from St. John 2:11 correctly states that the miracle of the water and wine was the “beginning of miracles” of Jesus. I fully believe that statement; however, the pre-incarnate Christ is “the beginning of miracles” Himself. The Son does nothing apart from the Father, and the Son and Father does nothing apart from the Holy Ghost for all Three are One in Mind and Purpose. Miracles are defined by Easton’s Illustrated Dictionary in the following words:
“An event in the external world brought about by the immediate agency or the simple volition of God, operating without the use of means capable of being discerned by the senses, and designed to authenticate the divine commission of a religious teacher and the truth of his message (John 2:18; Mat 12:38). It is an occurrence at once above nature and above man. It shows the intervention of a power that is not limited by the laws either of matter or of mind, a power interrupting the fixed laws which govern their movements, a supernatural power.” —Easton's Illustrated Dictionary
I must agree with this definition with the one reservation that the laws of nature, themselves, are miraculous. When we consider the precise order of the Universe, the stars in their paths, the precision orbits of the planets about their stars, or suns, is truly miraculous. The constant formation of a baby’s body and soul from conception, the DNA programming instantly present from the first moment of that conception, is miraculous. But, for the sake of a simple and uncomplicated discussion of miracles, I will restrain form enlarging upon the multitude of miracles found in nature and dwell upon those that relate to the suspension, by God, of the natural laws of the Universe.
The very first recorded miracle of the pre-Incarnate Christ occurred in the very first verse of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Gen 1:1) The Hebrew word for God, here, is Elohim. Elohim is a plural singular proper noun which relates to the working of God the Father in concert with God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. All three were present and active at the moment of Creation of this world and all that is in the heavenly cosmos. “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Gen 1:2) You see mention of the Presence of the Holy Spirit during this moment of Creation.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, in pre-Incarnate form, was present as well: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” (Gen 1:3) That Light has been illuminating our hearts ever since. “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12) God brought His blueprints of Creation to the Table at the beginning. The Holy Spirit supplied the Oil of Action, and Jesus Christ, the Architect of the World proceeded to build according to His Father’s plan. “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4) A searching discernment is not required to know that this refers to the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Word from all Eternity Past and Future.
Another profound miracle of Christ is no more profound than other miracles of similar character except that it occurred outside the Laws of Nature as set in place by God at the beginning the – that is, the miracle of the Incarnation of Christ as a babe at Bethlehem. There has only been one man previously who lived without having been born of woman: who was that? It was Adam who was created by the direct Hand of God. There has been only One Man born of woman who had no earthly Father – the Lord Jesus Christ. It was to a precious and holy young virgin that the Angel Gabriel appeared with the miraculous news of the Coming Jesus: “31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:31-35) In a sense, the first miracle of Jesus was in His very birth of a Virgin. All else is detail.
Our next devotion will concern itself with the first Ministerial miracle of Christ at Cana of Galilee. You just might read ahead for a preview of that miracle. The account is found in the Gospel of St. John 2:1-11.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Devotion on Hymns of the Church (Brightly Beams our Father's Mercy) - 30 January 2014 Anno Domini (In the Year of Our Lord)
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world (Phil 2:15)
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; (Luke 12:35)
I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12)
There is much to be said about LIGHT in the Holy Bible; in fact, LIGHT is a burning and profound allusion to the Person of Christ. LIGHT secondarily refers to those who are light-bearers for Christ - it is HIS LIGHT they bear, and His glorious illumination they reflect. "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid." (Matt 5:14) We often speak of the Hidden Manna of God's Word, but it is easily found if we will remove the shrouds of doubt and deceit that cover it. God's Word is LIGHT and, once uncovered, comes penetrating through the darkness of ignorance and misunderstanding like a flash of morning sunlight.
Several years ago, I wrote a devotion on today's hymn which went out to the mailing list. There was a dear old saint (now deceased), Francis Eichler, living in Florida who sent me a letter about that devotion. She said that her father was a sea captain who was stranded in the harbor of Port au Prince. His ship was quarantined due to yellow fever aboard. Mrs. Eichler's father died of that affliction. A folded up copy of today's hymn was found in his belongings. This lady said she never knew the meaning until she had read my account of it, and was comforted to know of it. It was, as well, an encouragement to me that the devotion had been helpful to someone.
BRIGHTLY BEAMS OUR FATHER'S MERCY
Brightly beams our Father’s mercy,
From His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.
Refrain: Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor struggling, fainting seaman
You may rescue, you may save.
Dark the night of sin has settled,
Loud the angry billows roar;
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.
Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.
The music and words of this beautiful and touching hymn were composed by Mr. Philip P. Bliss, of Philadelphia, in 1871. He wrote the words following a description by D.L. Moody of a maritime disaster near the harbor at Cleveland, Ohio, Lake Eerie. Here is the account as related:
On a dark, stormy, night, when the waves rolled like mountains, and not a star was to be seen, a boat, rocking and plunging, neared the Cleveland harbor. “Are you sure this is Cleveland?” asked the captain, seeing only one light from the lighthouse.
“Quite sure, sir,” replied the pilot.
“Where are the lower lights?”
“Gone out, sir.”
“Can you make the harbor?”
“We must, or perish, sir!”
And with a strong hand and a brave heart, the old pilot turned the wheel. But alas, in the darkness he missed the channel, and with a crash upon the rocks the boat was shivered, and many a life lost in a watery grave.
Brethren, the Master will take care of the great lighthouse: let us keep the lower lights burning!
(D. L. Moody.) Philip P. Bliss, The Charm: A Collection of Sunday School Music (Chicago, Illinois: Root & Cady, 1871)
It is quite obvious to the Christian professor of that which is exemplified by the great Lighthouse of the Harbor - it is the LIGHT of God sweeping the tumultuous waves and billows of the sea as a boon to lost seaman. But what of the Lower Lights? Those Lower Lights are you and me who receive our oil from the Holy Ghost to light the small channels of the harbor once the Lighthouse has wooed the ships of sea near to entry.
Brightly beams our Father’s mercy, From His lighthouse evermore, But to us He gives the keeping Of the lights along the shore. There is no light comparable to that of God. As a matter of fact, there is no LIGHT apart from God. We are the keepers of the Lower Lights alo0ng the shoreline.
When visiting our churches in Haiti a few years back, I noticed the Port au Prince Lighthouse standing erect near the head of the harbor of the city. It was starkly visible both during the hours of darkness as well as daylight; however, at night, there were lesser lights to be seen all along the harbor channel. These were the Lower Lights intended to guide the big sea vessels to safe anchorage in the harbor once that had been brought near by the Lighthouse Light.
The darkness of sin is stifling to the soul's eye. "Dark the night of sin has settled, Loud the angry billows roar; Eager eyes are watching, longing, For the lights along the shore." The Sun settled on this old world at the Fall of Adam in the Garden at Eden, but we have the promised and constant Light of Christ to light our paths throughout the long, dark night of our souls on this orb. He is our Bright and Morning Star from evening to Sunrise through our hours of darkness. He is our Day Star at dawn, and always the brightest Light in the Heavens. As the storms of life and the billows of sin build and crash, we are made to feel secure by the prospect of that unquenchable Light of Christ above us and in our hearts.
"Trim your feeble lamp, my brother; Some poor sailor, tempest tossed, Trying now to make the harbor, In the darkness may be lost." A lamp is of no use without oil. And the soul is of no value without the oil of the Holy Ghost to provide fuel for light. Remember the ten virgins. Five had made provision for oil when the Bridegroom came, five did not. Those five virgins who did not make provision were still virgins and of good character, but good character will no gain entrance into the Marriage Supper of the Lamb - we must have the grace and oil of the Holy Ghost to Light our Way. If we have oil, we must also have fire! Our souls must be the wick whereby the oil feeds the fire of light. All who are near us may find their way by the Light we shed forth. We never know where the perishing soul may be, so we sweep the waves by the Light of God in constant search. By and by, the beam will catch the sight of a seaman lost on the perilous waters of sin. As he homes in on the Light, he draws close to harbor. He will then see the Lower Lights, too, to guide him to safe docking at the harbor haven of rest.
Are your Lights burning?
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Sermon Notes - Third Sunday after The Epiphany - 26 January 2014 Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)
The Third Sunday after The Epiphany.
LMIGHTY and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
E not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
St. John 2:1-11
ND the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: and both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six water-pots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the water-pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. 50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. (John 1:47-50)
I consider the lectionary texts today to be of stellar importance. They represent the beginning of the ministry of Jesus at Cana. The ancient Prayer of Collect opens with a petition for the provision of safety and necessity from the Hand of the Lord. It further appeals for mercies on our common frailty in life. If we remembered to pray this prayer first each morning, it would suffice for our daily bread. Whether by profound miracle, or by the common miracles of God’s nature, our daily needs are all provided by the right hand of God.
The following selection from the day’s Epistle has profound meaning for the Christian professor: 17 “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Some hearers today will not know, or remember, the term ‘hickory stick’ due to the fact that its memory has not been indelibly etched on the hide of their legs, but I remember! It was the punishment of choice in the mountain country in which I was raised. The mention of it would strike terror into the hearts of its victims. If I, or my sisters, or brother, misbehaved, we could expect mother or father to go outside and break a thin, limber limb from the hickory tree. This became a sort of whip that was used to evoke repentance for deeds of disobedience. It was not possible to outrun the persistent lashing of the ‘hickory stick.’ Once after an argument with my younger brother of five years of age, I told my mother on him for some secret misdeed. Mother said, “Jerry, go outside and find me a hickory stick.” Gleeful at the opportunity for maximum revenge, I sought out the prickliest limb I could find, and adorned with especially hateful spurs. When I handed the branch to my mother, she took one look at the dreadful instrument of torture and said, “OK, Jerry, YOU are FIRST!” I will never forget that lesson of willful revenge on my part. I believe God teaches us the same lesson. “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.” (Prov 24:17-18)
Now we come to the glorious Gospel, so full of Light and Hidden Manna for the early riser – for Manna comes with the mist of the morning. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.” (Psalms 63:1-2)
The text describes a marriage celebration in Cana of Galilee to which Jesus and His disciples have been invited. The event is heralded as Jesus’ first miracle among a host of miracles. Of course, the text is referring to those profound suspensions of natural law that Jesus evoked by the power of His Word. But we must not forget that the pre-Incarnate Christ was the agent of First Cause in the Creation of the world, the heavenly bodies, and all life. (John 1:1-03) The changing of the elements of pure water into wind demonstrates our Lord’s eternal sovereignty over the Creation which He has made. It was sensational and stunning to man who deals more commonly in the physical realities of life; however, I will suggest that this is the second recorded miracle of the Gospel of John. In fact, I will claim that all of the life of Jesus was an ongoing miracle of eternal proportions. Remember Nathaniel in the first chapter of John? “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. 50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.” (John 1:47-50)
Please observe that the Hidden Miracle here is one of the Spirit and not of the elements of the physical world. It is this miracle that supersedes all others. So what is the profundity of this miracle? It is summarized by a comment by the Rev. Matthew Davis of Rhode Island yesterday on the AOC Forum: “Matthew 16:17 ‘And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.’ Unless God first reveals Himself they will never understand the truths of the Creed or His Word.” The Rev. Davis got it right. First of all, it is a miracle that God loves us. Secondly, that He deigns to reveal Himself to us by way of His Word and the natural world. An anonymous love letter, addressed to no one in particular, may be beautiful for thought and prose, but it bears little meaning unless revealed to its intended beloved. The most difficult challenge to the modern Christian is to see that God’s personality and truth are just as clearly intended for his heart as it was for the hearers two or three thousand years ago. Only God can bring that revelation to the heart.
In reading the Gospel text, we see that those who are followers (disciples) of Christ share in the courtesies to which He is invited. They were ALSO invited to attend this, presumable, friends and family event. If we are in Christ, we are accounted a part of His family and circle of friends. “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:15) Christ is all in all to us. He is first, a Friend; but more than a Friend, He is our elder Brother in the family of God; and more than a Brother, He is our Lord and Sovereign. He is a “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) If He is the second Adam (which clearly He is), He becomes literally the Father of all who are quickened in the Spirit to eternal life.
JESUS CARES FOR THE COMMON NEEDS OF ALL HUMANITY:
So the marriage celebration at Cana reveals the Glory of His All-Sufficient Grace to us in all conditions, big and small, of our lives. It places an exclamation mark on the Institution which was God’s first in the Garden at Eden. Marriage is so illustrative of the union that exists between Christ and His Church that Jesus uses the occasion to demonstrate its importance by performing His first material miracle. I love the beauty and reverence provided in the Book of Common Prayer for the Solemnization of Matrimony that reflects this truth:
EARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church: which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galilee, and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God. Into this holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. If any man can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.
3 “And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.” The Greek term used here for ‘wanted’ is: uJsterevw (Hustereo) which means to fall behind or lack an essential something for a particular need. The need may not be a profound necessity, but it is a necessity for the conditions of the present moment – in this case, wine, the lack of which would have been a signal embarrassment to the family of the couple getting married. To the consternation of many of our Baptist brethren, this wine is not unfermented grape juice, but the real deal. The warmth and comfort of the fruit of the vine is illustrative of the same which is granted, in a more marked degree, by the Holy Ghost. But the issue of wine is not the focus of this event, but the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ in His role as Creator and Sovereign over all powers – even His natural law. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
JESUS DESIRES US TO COME IN PRAYER TO HIM FOR ALL OUR NEEDS:
Another interesting point in this comment of Mary to her Son is the familiarity which family associations breed. When we are part of the family of Christ, we can approach Him with even mundane requests. Our every ‘want’ may not be always supplied, but we have the privilege to seek it out and understand His will in the matter. You will observe that Mary did not make ANY overt request but only expressed a need. He knows our every need and will supply according to His will. If we express our need in prayer, He will be more acutely keen to satisfy that need if He deems it beneficial to us.
The miracles of Jesus are not to be regarded as the most prominent proof of His Lordship, but as secondary revelations of His power and grace. The greater revelation is in His revealing Himself to us as He did to Nathaniel, to Nicodemus, and to Peter. The modern church that seeks signs and wonders is not a church of faith and holiness: “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” (Matt 12:39-41) Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the whale. Jesus was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. But Jonah came up from the whale’s belly, and Christ was the first born of all the family of God in His resurrection. Is this not enough iron on which to hang our faith? Why do we insist on God constantly proving Himself? Should the case not be reversed?
THE KEY TO GAINING THE BEST FROM THE MASTER’S HAND IS OBEDIENCE:
4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” Jesus’ response is not unimportant to us. He seems to hesitate in His response to His mother, but she perseveres and counts her prayer as already answered. She knows the nature of her Son to provide all necessary wants. So she says to the servants (as well as to you and me): “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” Has the modern church done this? Have you done this in your personal walk of faith? Remember, ‘WHATSOEVER’ covers every Word of Scripture revealed to us. Of course, the greatest ‘WHATSOEVER’ that Jesus has commanded is that we “Love one another.” “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35) How many Christians fail of this commandment? How many churches?
Notice that Jesus commands authority – even among those who may not know Him. 6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. No one had ever issued such an unbelievable command to these servants before, yet they obeyed immediately and without question. When Christ calls us into unknown paths, we do not stammer and falter, but rise immediately in obedience. If we hesitate, He may send His “Hounds of Heaven” on our trail until we do obey.
OBEDIENCE RESULTS IN THE BEST ALWAYS BEING AHEAD:
Do you truly LOVE God? Love possesses a sacrificial quality. It foregoes self and exalts the object of its affection. We have no means of loving the unlovely, but Christ is LOVELY. In fact, “we love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) If we obey and keep His Commandments, we shall always have the best to which to look forward. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (1 Cor 2:9-10) Who are we to enjoy such blessings! Do you desire the BEST, or do you prefer the sordid leftovers of the world? “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. (Isaiah 1:19)
This great truth is made certain in these verses: 9 “When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.” This is absolutely true. The world sets forth its shiniest and best false pleasures before us first of all, but the blessings and benefits of God are ever increasing in splendor and beauty.
Regardless of the victories and reverses of your life heretofore, the Lord can make those victories and benefits pale in comparison to what He has to offer those who love Him and are obedient to His Word.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany - Roy Morales-Kuhn, Bishop and Pastor - St. Paul's Anglican Church - Anglican Orthodox Church
Bishop Roy is pastor of the biggest AOC parish West of the Mississippi and was consecrated today as a Bishop and is in charge of the Diocese of MidAmerica. Roy will be a great bishop and continue as a great pastor, nothing less is in him.
Second Second after Epiphany
19 January 2014
The Epistle; Romans 12: 6 - 16
The Gospel Mark 1:1 - 11
Humility and glory; quiet dignity and greatness; being a servant and being the God of the Universe. In our scripture readings today we see all of these concepts juxtaposition in so many ways. How can the God of Creation also be a servant of man?
How can one so exalted be so humble and meek?
To answer some of these paradoxes and seemingly conflicting ideas, we need to understand the plan, the grand plan of God, the creator. Why did he send his only Son, in utmost humility, born in a lowly place, and yet born to fulfil all prophesy about his coming? Down through the ages the prophets foretold his coming, where, and even how, but only those who believed seemed to understand what it all meant. And sometime even they didn’t, as we see the questions Peter and some of the other disciples kept asking Jesus about the coming of his kingdom.
What are we to understand? If you read over the “inventory” of talents that believers are ‘gifted’ with, you can begin to understand what we are to do.
A. Prophesy ; now that the canon of Scripture is closed, prophesy could be interpreted as a person who can see what may happen if certain actions are taken OR not taken. True Biblical prophets were and are 100% correct. They were not partly right, somewhat right, they were dead on right. That which they prophesied came true. We have that evidence in the whole Advent season. We see it as read in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New, time and again. Because of this 100% record of fulfillment, we can also believe that all prophesy yet to come will also be fulfilled 100%. Jesus Christ will return one day to set-up his Kingdom that will have no end.
B. Serving; service is in all things Christian, whether you are a nursery worker, cook funeral lunches, a door greeter, a vestryman, or just volunteer at any worthy cause. Service is everywhere. The apostles were called upon so much to serve, that they finally had to set aside a group of young men to do that work, the deacon became a vital member of the church body, he was able to help with taking care of the physical needs of the church body, while the apostles would take care of the spiritual. The deacon, priest and bishop are also servants to the people for the furtherance of the Kingdom.
C. Teaching; very much like service, teaching can be time consuming, but very fulfilling. To teach you must have a certain amount of patience, an ability to share ideas, information, directions, and concepts. In the realm of Sunday School, or preparing for Confirmation, one must be able to convey the Word of God to the student in a way that is both loving and yet firm. The importance of our belief and the importance of being able to give reason for why and what we believe is the best defense against heresy. Heresy that is sweeping the Church today, taking with it many “soft” believer, people who don’t understand their faith or are unable to defend against the wiles of the Evil One as presented by every day life. Good teachers can be found, a good teacher can also be cultivated, a talent that many times lies dormant, simply because no one asks that person to help in the teaching process.
D. Encouraging; a really daunting task. To be able to get a person or people encouraged about their lot, to help them see that there is a way out of what seems a hopeless mess, this is a talent. I have known people in my life who have stepped in and given me a boost, shown me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, there is a way to see this crisis through, and even survive, not only to the next day but for the rest of my life. These encouragers are so important, especially today, they not only help us on the way, but they pray for us, they hold us up to the Throne of God, seeking His help in our journey. One of the strongest talents of an encourager is the ability to guide kindly and yet firmly, to pray without ceasing, and to always seek God in the endeavor they are encouraging. One of the best examples of encouragers are the ‘prayer-partners’ such as what we see with the AOC prayer bulletins issued from the National office almost everyday.
E. Contributing; one who has can help those who don’t. Notice St. Paul writes to give generously, but not all. One who has the talent to make and multiply wealth is to share, but not bankrupt themselves, otherwise they will be of no use to anyone. Wealth in the Bible is not condemned, it is the worship of wealth, the love of money, the hoarding of coins that is condemned, not wealth. Christ reminded us that the poor will be with you always. He also reminds us to help them, not condemn them. Again, a tension but not an impossible task, one can be wealthy and be a Christ follower. Be wise with your wealth, it will not go with you when you are gone.
F. Leadership; very short and sweet. Govern diligently. To be on guard for corruption, evil doings, to follow the civil laws as they prevent chaos, but most especially to be diligent, which sounds more like following the law of the land, without corruption. Lead the people. We see this concept outlined in the ordering of deacons, priest, and bishops. But it also applies to those who help the church function on a day to day basis, monthly, annually and in many cases as long as the church endures here on earth.
G. Mercy; showing mercy as St. Paul writes. Being able to forgive, being able to see the positive in a person, especially if they have fouled up once or twice. It is so hard to be merciful, if we are quick to condemn and hold people accountable for something, that in most cases is not that important. Remember the parable of the talents, and the debts one fellow has with his boss, his boss forgives him of his debts, then the forgiven turns on one below him and is without mercy on the debt the fellow below him owes the forgiven. And remember the boss then comes and rectifies the situation, he without mercy is cast out.
Let us think upon our talents, think about those things we are gifted with from our Creator, then pray that God gives us an opportunity to act upon these gifts and to use them to the Glory of God.
Let us pray:
ather, we ask that you illume us with your Holy Spirit, help us to see what work we have been set aside for, the work that you have for us to do, for the advancement of your Kingdom, give us the sense of urgency, the need is great, the workers are few. These things we ask in the Name of God the Father Almighty, Christ Jesus his Only Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, now and forever, Amen
“ As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith”
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Devotion on the Hymns of the Church - (Hymn 471 - Rock of Ages) - 14 January 2014, Anno Domini (Year of our Lord)
7 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. 9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. (Num 20:6-11)
4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (1 Cor 10:4)
Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law's commands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.
The beauty, power, and promise of this favorite old hymn are unsurpassed in hymnology. It was born in adversity, and rises to the challenge of its making. Both words and music (Petra) were composed by Augustus Toplady, an Anglican clergyman, in 1775. There is more than one claim that Toplady wrote this hymn after being caught out in a severe thunderstorm, and took refuge in the cleft of a great rock. The incident apparently took place in the cleft rock at Burrington Combe gorge in North Somerset, England, and it has a plaque on it with this claim to fame. For us, Christ is that Great Rock which was cleft for us, and the only source of refuge for the soul of man. “Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.” (Psalms 71:3)
“Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee; let the water and the blood from thy wounded side which flowed, be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power.” That Rock that Moses struck represented that source of salvation for Moses, and all who would cherish The Lord and Savior of mankind. What a Great Rock of Love is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is that Rock that could not be moved even by the passion of the cross. All who claim Him as Lord must strive to be of the same composition and character – chips and stones from that Rock of Ages who deigned to come and die for sinners such as you and me. That Rock was cleft in the Wilderness of Sin for it was called the Fountain of Rephidim which, in the Hebrew tongue means Resting Place. That is right and proper since Jesus has become, not only our Passover, but our Sabbath Rest as well. The Rock that was cleft in the Wilderness was at Meribah which was so called to describe the strife and contention of His people in the Desert of Sin, for it was there that the Israelites murmured against the Lord who was their salvation and mainstay. That Rock was again cleft on the Cross at Calvary and out of that cleft side came, not only water, but blood – the blood whereby we are saved.
“Not the labor of my hands can fulfill thy law's demands; could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; thou must save, and thou alone.” ” Eastward in the Garden at Eden, fallen man discovered that he could not cover his nakedness by his feeble labors at fig-leaf aprons. God had to sacrifice and innocent animal (the very first death on earth) to cover their nakedness. Man must know now as well that his best efforts cannot atone for his sins. Only the sacrifice of the wholly innocent Lamb of God can atone for our sins.
“Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless look to thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.” We shall leave this world in the same way we came – naked and penniless. But our grasp can hold to the cross even beyond the Banks of Jordan Waters. Even though we may have been Prodigals in time past, if we have received the Father’s Best Robe of Righteousness to cover our filth, a Ring of Authority for our Fingers, and the Shoes of Liberty for our Feet, we shall not be ashamed at the Last Day. If we have washed in that Fountain of Rephidim, we shall be made clean, indeed, whiter than snow.
“While I draw this fleeting breath, when mine eyelids close in death, when I soar through tracts unknown see thee on thy judgment throne, Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”There are no recorded repentances for righteous living of which I am familiar. I have never read of a dying man being remorseful for not gambling, being a greater drunkard, committing more adultery, etc. When the moment of death arrives, and the Ancient of Days stands near the pall, the last thought of man is a solemn and serious thought. If he has not known Christ as his Savior, there may be terror and anguish at that time. What a contrast to those who are “safe in the arms of Jesus!” There is a place of dying, known only to God, for every reader of this devotion. It is good that the moment has not been frankly revealed to us. It is at that moment as the rough waters build, and the angry billows roar, that the Christian will behold, at the very banks of the river, that Great Rock cleft for him, and yawning to receive him into safe passage. We shall be hidden from all pains of death and fear in that Ancient Rock. We shall be covered.
I read a very touching story this morning that has some comparable features to the manner in which God views those of us whose sins are covered by the blood of His only Begotten Son. I read a story of a process those who raise sheep in Scotland use to care for orphan lambs. Once their mother is dead, no other ewes will have anything to do with the poor little orphan. If it tries to get suck from another ewe, she will recognize by the smell that the little lamb is not hers and will kick it away. However, if there has been the death of another little lamb, the shepherd will skin the dead lamb and place its coat over the orphan lamb. He will then take that orphan lamb to the mother of the dead lamb and she will then nurse it believing it to be her own. This process is called ‘grafting.’ How very much like the child of God who is adopted into the family of God through the shed blood of His only Begotten Son. It is not our own righteousness that God recognizes, but that of His dearly Beloved Son. Have you been adopted?