Sunday, October 04, 2015

Sermon on video

Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, Oct. 4, 2015.

Click on the picture.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

I Corinthians 1:4-7 * Matthew 22:34-46

Article VII. Of the Old Testament: THE Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore they are not to be heard which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.”

In less than two months it will be Advent. When that season arrives, we shall be singing that great hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. One of the verses of that hymn says:

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,

who to thy tribes on Sinai's height

in ancient times didst give the law

in cloud and majesty and awe.

It is only fitting for Jesus Christ to comment on the Law- the Torah- and to give us the Summary of the Law in the two greatest commandments. After all, it is He who is the true author of the Law. We need to understand that, because far too many people think that Jesus Christ and the New Covenant contradict the Old Covenant; that God was formerly rather vengeful and mean, until Jesus came and straightened Him out.

But, here is what He said:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matt. 5:17-20)

The Law of Moses was separated into three kinds of law. These are the ceremonial, the civil and the moral. One of the best known sayings of the Jewish people can have a double meaning: “The law of the land is the Law.” It means that in whatever land the Jewish people live, they must be law-abiding people. But, it also means that in the Holy Land, the land they call H’eretz Israel, the Law of the Land is the Torah, the Law given through Moses – that is, it was the Law of their country in antiquity.  

The people of Israel, throughout the Old Testament period, and into the days of the Macabees, had only one national constitution, the Law of God. Therefore, it contains the civil code of the nation, complete with laws of criminal justice, public safety and so on (some of the practical wisdom of which we ignore to our peril. For example, in our Country a person may be convicted on the testimony of but one witness rather than two or three. Our way can lead to injustice. The Torah requires the testimony of at least two witnesses in order to convict the accused. One of the safety laws of the Torah required that every roof have a railing, desert roofs being flat, so that people could not fall off of buildings – Deuteronomy 22:8). Also, the Law of Moses had in it everything we would call a rubric. The commandments tell the people everything that they are to do regarding the worship of God, sacrifice, feasts, fasts, and the details about the Levitical priesthood. This we call the ceremonial portion of the Law.

It is in the Ten Commandments that the Moral Law first appears with absolute clarity. If you were taught properly for Confirmation, no matter how long ago it may have been, you should recall that the Ten Commandments are split into two parts. The first four teach us how to love God. 1) That we worship no other god, 2) that we make no idols to distract from worship of the true God, 3) that we do not abuse, that is take in vain, His Name, 4) that we keep holy the Sabbath, that is, the day of rest, as holy to the Lord. Then, the second part gives us six commandments about how to love our neighbor. 5) To honor our parents, 6) not to murder, 7) not to commit adultery, 8) not to steal, 9) not to bear false witness (including not only perjury, but also slander or libel), 10) and finally, not even to covet what belongs to our neighbor.

Part of the great wisdom of our Prayer Book is the Catechism that teaches us how the two great commandments summarize these ten. Furthermore, if we read the New Testament carefully, we see that these commandments are much deeper than they might appear. The commandment to honor one’s parents extends to the teaching that we are to have a respectful attitude to all proper authority (Romans 13:1f). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us that anger and hatred, and a lack of forgiveness, are all a violation of the commandment against murder; and that all sins against chastity, even if nothing more than the willful indulgence of "the lust of the eyes" (the kind our entertainment industry tries to cultivate), violate the true meaning of the commandment against adultery, whether by married or by single persons. When we get to the tenth commandment, against coveting, we learn that the entire concept of applying the meaning of the Law to the hidden attitudes of the heart was not a new idea when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount.  He had centuries earlier revealed from Mount Sinai the same principle: The Law must be written on the heart.

The Law requires something that it cannot give, that it has no power to impart. It requires a heart that loves God and our neighbor. Furthermore, not simply that we love our neighbors in the plural. That way we could love only some of them, and say that we are fulfilling the commandment. But, the commandment is stated in the singular. “Love thy neighbor” teaches the same thing as those words of the Lord Jesus: “as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren," and conversely, “As ye have done it not unto one of the least of these my brethren” (Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matt. 25:31-46). Charity, that is the highest kind of love, is not about how we treated mankind. It is about how we have treated, forgiven and come to the aid of the one, especially, perhaps, that one we simply do not like.

And, we learn something else, namely from Saint Paul writing to the Galatians:

“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:22-24)

When we really think about the Summary of the Law, we can be filled with either despair or hope. I know that I have never lived one day in which I have managed to love the Lord with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind. I know that never has the day gone by in which I have loved my neighbor as myself, at least not that one. I would like to be so holy, so filled with virtue. But, I am not.

Saint Paul called himself the chief of sinners. In fact, a genuine mark of a true saint is that he is very much aware of his sins, and of how far he falls short of God’s requirements. Even though he or she lives better than most people, even though he wants to please God and serve Him truly, even though he abstains from willful sin and repents sincerely of every sin into which he might have fallen, he never imagines that he has succeeded or become perfect. If the saints know themselves to be sinners, what about those of us who know that we are called to become saints, and yet know that we have not even gotten close? (For, make no mistake, a saint is exactly what each one of us is called to become.)

The commandments, even the list of negative commandments, that is, those that tell us what not to do, are summed up in the positive commandments, that is, what we are commanded to do. We are to love God, and we are to love our neighbor. That is the whole duty of man, as long as we understand that love means agape, or charity. It never rejoices in iniquity, but only in the truth, says St. Paul in the famous chapter of First Corinthians (chapter 13).

But, how do we come to hope, rather than despair, from these impossible requirements? The answer is what Saint Paul says, that we are brought to faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing can give me greater confidence in God’s mercy than the impossibility of fulfilling, by my own strength, these two Great Commandments we call the Summary of the Law. He knows our weakness, and does not turn away from us if we come to Him with repentance and faith. That is because He sees us in the Person of His Son, as in that wonderful phrase that is repeated constantly in Paul’s Epistles: “in Christ.” That is where we are, by baptism, by faith, by living in the Church with all of its sacraments that are real and powerful through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We can grow into the love of God by heeding these words of Saint John, in that simple phrase: “We love him, because he first loved us (I John 4:19).” How did He first love us? As Saint Paul says, “God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).”

I cannot manufacture love for God, or for my neighbor, as such an endeavor is artificial. But, I can look at the cross of Jesus Christ. I can look at Him in His pain and agonies pouring out His soul unto death for me - as can you. If you want to obtain this love for God and for your neighbor, you must look up at Jesus Christ on the cross pouring out His soul unto death for you. That is how the seed of charity is planted within your heart. And, it is by returning to the foot of that cross every day that the seed of charity grows and bears fruit unto eternal life. Realizing that He has died for you is the door of hope by which you can rejoice in His resurrection.

The very nature of what is required in these two great and impossible commandments can give either hope or despair. Because I see the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, I can understand the words in today’s Epistle reading:

“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ: that in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Monday, September 28, 2015

Saint Michael and all Angels, September 29

See the video sermon at this link.

For the Epistle. Revelation 12: 7-12
THERE was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

The Gospel. St. Matthew 18:1-10
AT the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Ephesians 1:1-6 * Luke 14:1-11
Because I work to teach the meaning of Scripture on a wide scale, having been convinced from an early age that this is a gift and vocation, and now having doors opened to fulfill that calling, I encounter several responses. Sometimes it is complimentary, and sometimes it is challenging. In terms of internet comments, especially on The Continuum, I am accustomed to comments written to debate what I have said; and from a worthy challenger it is always wise to be ready and willing to learn. So, I am ready to do. After all, if the objective is to know the truth, any means of arriving at the truth is worthwhile, provided that we do not mean merely gathering of facts, but knowing the word of God more fully in order to know Him more deeply.

I have noticed that among challenging comments there are different kinds, indeed more kinds than we need to mention here; so I will address two. Of these two, the first is debate motivated by charity. For example, we have had Roman Catholic readers, or sometimes what are now called Reasserters on the opposite side, whose comments have been written in order to convert us, trying to win us over (I assume) because they honestly believe that they are trying to save us from heresy, and therefore from its consequences. In some discussions wherein I have answered most firmly, I have appreciated the fact that a commenter may be very mistaken, but nonetheless motivated by a genuine virtue, namely charity. On the other hand, there are some who debate because of pride; they feel that they must appear to win an argument at all costs. Their pride becomes apparent, after a while, because they become abusive and begin to communicate in terms of contempt or anger. Such comments, when they reach that level, do not appear on The Continuum, because of our one rule of "robust if polite" discourse. We generally allow any point to be made, as long as it is made with a reasonable degree of courtesy (since we are not afraid to be challenged).

I believe that the Pharisees in today's Gospel reading were full of malice because of their pride. Here was a man, a carpenter by trade, whose formal education was simply that of any Jewish man; far better on average than that of the Gentiles if only because Jews have always aimed at 100 percent literacy. All of their people (men and women) could read at least their prayers and the Psalms. But, Jesus had not sat at the feet of any of the notable Rabbis of their time, such as Gamaliel, who was in his own day the equivalent of a highly reputable Professor of Theology in our time. Nonetheless, Jesus the carpenter spoke with authority that the Pharisees could not even so much as imitate; and beyond that, His word was with power. His word drove out demons, healed those with diseases and afflictions of all sorts, and on at least three occasions brought dead people back to life. He did not need the Pharisees, and He did not seek either their guidance or their permission to teach and to heal.

On this day, the Pharisees were threatened by a man who wanted to be healed on the Sabbath; for if Jesus were to grant such a request He would openly contradict their teaching just by doing the healing. He would not have to say anything. As if that was not bad enough, Jesus silenced them in front of everybody by uttering a simple "one liner" hypothetical question: "Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?" St. Luke goes on to tell us, "And they could not answer him again to these things." Simply by having the power to heal, and by using that power, Jesus won the argument. We know from Mark's Gospel that it was at this point that some of these same Pharisees either joined the effort, or maybe even started the effort, to have Jesus put to death. Matthew tells us that when the time finally came that Jesus was tried by Pilate, the Roman Governor knew that not only the Pharisees, but also the chief priests and Sadducees, wanted Jesus dead because of their envy (Matt. 27:18).

But on this particular day, by demonstrating His divine power to heal, Jesus won the argument twice over. For, already He had spoken with wisdom beyond the reach of His foes; and then He acted with power they could never match. But, the Lord really had no concern with something as trivial as winning arguments. Possessing all wisdom, a mere show of cleverness would have been quite beneath Him. His motivation had no room for anything petty, or self-seeking. First of all, He had compassion on the man who suffered, and on all who needed to see the grace and love of God demonstrated by an act of mercy. For every healing Jesus ever did signified something far more important for all of us than simple physical healing in this transitory life. Every healing proved that God does not deal with us as our sins deserve; every healing pointed to something greater and far more permanent: Every healing pointed to the forgiveness of sin, which is of eternal value.

Jesus was quite willing to trample on the sinful pride of fallen man, sparing no one's delicate ego when knowledge of the truth was at stake. But, this is not about truth merely in some academic sense. It was about something infinitely more important than who was correct. It says in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (31,32)." What truth is that? Is it a perfect grasp of History, of Mathematics or of Science? Is it even truth about various peripheral and speculative areas of theology, or of liturgy, or of Biblical Literacy? As important as these academic subjects are, we need to know the truth that is deeper than any of them. Indeed, if someone knows the facts and details of the Bible, and yet cannot know the Word who is present, Himself, throughout all of it, he does not really know the Bible at all. Jesus Himself is the Truth, as He said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6)." As the Truth He is also the only Path to the Father, and the only Life that overcomes death.

This knowledge of the Truth, of Jesus Christ the Word who is eternally with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and who has been made flesh and dwelt among us, gives us knowledge of all truth. When we understand the truth as it is revealed fully in Jesus Christ, we know the truth about ourselves, and first of all, that we are sinners utterly in need of His salvation from sin and death. We begin by knowing we are lost, and we need Him to take us home; that we are blind and need Him to open our eyes to see; that we are deaf and need Him to open our ears to hear. We need forgiveness of sin, but cannot buy or earn it; the Healer must give us mercy just as he gave it to the man with the dropsy-the same mercy that does not deal with us as our sins deserve.

Jesus did not have tolerance or respect for the pride and hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and He had no regard for their delicate egos that could not stand to be proved wrong. The only argument He wanted to win was that of light over darkness, of mercy over condemnation, of love over indifference. His argument was for truth on the very practical level of meeting real human need, the need of a man with dropsy and the need of sinners everywhere and always to know the truth and to be made free. So must our concern for truth be; not to be proved right as pride would have it; but to impart the life-giving knowledge of God's truth to a world in need, beginning with the need of your neighbor. To be correct academically, and to be lauded for it, is of very small value. Christ-like desire to clarify the truth is practical; it is pastoral and evangelistic; it is motivated by love, which is of great worth in the eyes of God.

Every healing that Jesus did demonstrated not only mercy, but also the price of love that He planned to pay later for each act of compassion. As Isaiah the prophet foretold, "By His stripes we are healed." Matthew records that as Jesus went about doing good and healing He fulfilled these words by the prophet: "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4)." But, these words are not from a passage that foretells the glory of His miracles; these words are from the famous Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah, the fifty-third chapter; and they are followed immediately by the words, "Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (vs. 5,6 See Matthew 8:17, and compare)

When Jesus healed the man with the dropsy on that Sabbath, to the anger of those Pharisees, He was planning to pay later, on the cross. All of His compassion and all of His mercy moved Him to forgive and to heal as He walked the earth among the lost sheep of the House of Israel. When He told those who had marked out for themselves places of honor, that they ought rather to have taken the lowest place, He bade them repent and follow Him; for He was going to take up the cross and carry it to His humiliating and tortuous death. There He took away the sins of the world, and on the third day when He rose again, He also conquered death for you and for me. So, we must follow, beginning at the lowest place; and beginning again today at that lowest place, beginning always anew at that lowest place when we confess our sins, before we may be bidden to come up higher, bidden to come to the very rail of the altar to partake of His Body and Blood.

Know this: Hanging on the cross was no occasion for pride. But, what an argument He won, indeed what a battle.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

Ephesians 3:13-21 * Luke 7:11-17

A few years ago I was asked about a few words in our liturgy, namely from the Prayer of Humble Access, that beautiful prayer that begins with the words, “We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O Merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies…” The specific words that I was asked about are these: “Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood…” It is significant that these words were removed from the version of this prayer that is found in the 1979 Book of many services that replaced the Book of Common Prayer in that ever decreasing denomination called the Episcopal Church. They were cut out, as were the words “miserable offenders” from the daily Morning and Evening Prayer, despite the excellent apologetic for them provided by C.S. Lewis many years earlier. Those words were removed because modern people are offended by them. The well known Charismatic priest in the Episcopal Church, Terry Fullam, once related the story of a woman who said to him, “I may be a sinner, but I am not a miserable offender.” I remember a man who derided us by claiming that all our religion could produce was “miserable offenders” unlike his Pentecostal church that produced “saints.”

People are offended by the term “miserable offenders” because it tells the truth. We are miserable offenders, and without the grace of God in Jesus Christ we would, each and every one of us, be lost. But this, deleted from the Prayer of Humble Access, “…that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood…” offends the modern mind, because the modern mind cannot comprehend- as well I understand and sympathize- how the body could possibly be sinful. After all, the body is just a house, and it is the mind that can reason and incur guilt, so we think. I understand only too well why modern people need a theological justification for the words, “our sinful bodies.” The words themselves have a dubious history, because of a Medieval teaching that has long since ceased to be relevant. But, if we consider the words biblically and theologically, these words that we shall be praying within only a few minutes, we will have a new and stronger appreciation for the Gospel, for the Incarnation and for the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion which is “generally necessary to salvation.”

First of all, let us consider today’s Gospel. In this Gospel reading we are given a clue about how the body is sinful. We see the Lord raising a dead man to life. Before we go any further, we ought to grasp a very important fact of Christian doctrine. When I was very young, and had only begun to read the Bible, I was struck by the part of St. Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians in which he says: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept (I Cor. 15:20).” I was wondering how Christ could be “the first fruits of them that slept,” because he had on at least three occasions restored dead people to life. He had called Lazarus, and the twelve year-old daughter of the synagogue ruler, and this man we read about today, back from death. And, in the Old Testament we read of the one child brought back from the dead by Elijah the prophet, and the child brought back by Elisha the prophet, and the young man restored to life by the bones of Elisha (which provides a biblical justification for relics). So, what did Paul mean by calling our Lord Jesus Christ “the first fruits of them that slept?” Simply this: All of those people who had been brought back from death were brought back into this world that has been contaminated by sin and death, and they had been restored to a life that must end in mortality. They were not risen as creatures who were no longer fallen into sin, and no longer subject to death. All of them did, eventually, find their way back to the grave where they must wait, with us, for “the manifestation of the sons of God.” But “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God (Romans 6: 9, 10).” The Lord Jesus Christ, after dying for the sins of the whole world- for the sins of each of us, your sins and mine- became the first to enter into the immortal state and the glorified state that awaits us when He comes again in glory. Christ is the first fruits, and when He comes again we shall be the harvest: The general resurrection of the dead on the last day will destroy that last enemy to be destroyed, death. So says the Bible, as we find in St. Paul’s first letter to those in Corinth (in chapter fifteen).

The Law of Moses teaches us that if anyone so much as touched the dead body of any person, he was unclean and had to bring an offering to be cleansed. But, in the New Covenant that has been established in the blood of Jesus Christ, we see the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, so that even in death the body of a Christian is the dead body of a living person, a living soul, a seed to be planted that will spring up as a glorified and eternal, indeed, a spiritual body. You can imagine that the soul and spirit of man might be liberated from the body of death to enter into a spiritual existence. But today’s Epistle tells you that God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” And so it is that even the body will be granted immortality and glorification. Our hope and eternal destiny is the sure and certain hope of the resurrection on the last day. You will never be reincarnated, and you will not remain forever a bodiless spirit either. Your eternal hope is to be raised from the dead by the power of God when our Lord Jesus Christ returns in glory, to be patterned forever according to His immortality that He apprehended for us on that first Easter.

The body, as it is now, however, is affected by sin because it will die, and death itself is unclean. Death is not natural at all in the philosophical and theological sense. Death is the consequence of sin, not a good and natural part of God’s creation, but the last enemy of God and man that will be destroyed at Christ’s coming. So, how do we understand those words from our Prayer of Humble Access?  “…that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood…” We must think about what we are about to do. In a few minutes you will confess that you are a sinner like everybody else. The General Confession is the opposite of the proud Pharisee’s prayer. He thanked God that he was not like other men, like the sinners; that was because he deceived himself. But we will confess the very opposite: We will confess the truth, seeking to be forgiven by God, outwardly signified by Absolution (if we speak with “hearty repentance and true faith”), and so we will approach, will draw near to take into ourselves the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember His words:

“Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever (John 6: 54-58).”

Because we eat and drink, having communion with the living Christ in this sacrament, and because we do so with genuine faith, our sinful bodies will made clean from death by His body as we rise to immortality on the Last Day, when He comes again in glory. Even now our souls are washed through His most precious blood of the New Covenant. Springing from His Incarnation, from the Word made flesh, is this sacrament by which we feed on Christ, the Bread of Life, the food and drink of eternal life. Today’s Gospel demonstrates His power over death, His power to give life, and to do abundantly above all that we ask or even think, according to God’s power that worketh in us. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Video: a sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Click on the picture.

Don't believe it

Matt. 5:17-19

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

There it was again, the same lie, this time on Facebook from a "friend" who should know better. Proudly displayed on a meme, with a picture of Jesus teaching, were the words: "Jesus never said anything about homosexuality." Really? How about the part that is quoted above? The commandments of God about sexual relations have never changed, for they are part of the moral law. Clearly written are the words, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination (Leviticus 18:22)." Arguing that the same book forbids eating unclean food is not an argument at all, for the Kosher laws are not part of the two tables, the moral law. This why the laws concerning sexual morality are repeated in the New Testament, in this case, we find (in addition to the oft quoted Romans 1:26, 27 in a context of warning) a relevant passage in I Corinthians 6:9-11.

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

It is not only the word translated "effeminate" - μαλακς  (malakos) - that identifies the specific sinful practice, but also the word translated "fornicators" - πρνος (pornos) from the word πορνεω (pornea), always translated “fornication.” For, although the word "fornication" is understood these days to refer to sexual relations of a male and a female outside of marriage, the actual word means much more. It means any and every kind of sexual transgression, including but not limited to adultery, homosexual acts, sexual child abuse, sexual relations with animals, etc. Jesus never said anything approving about pornea, but instead only as sin, with strong words of warning.

"Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?  Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?  But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man (Matthew 15:15-20)."

All sin is serious enough for Jesus to have taken up His cross of death, not to approve of sins, not to change the moral law, but to atone so that we may be forgiven all of our sins and enter into eternal life. Jesus came to save His people from their sins, not to make the world safe for pornea.