Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Faith and Science

He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:15-17).

     I still hear it expressed, although not as much as I used to, that science has disproved religion, and to be a person of faith is to deny science and the progress it has made in understanding the Universe.  As a person of faith and a lover of science and mathematics, I find just the opposite to be true.  Science is for me faith-building.

     I heard the idea of science’s incompatibility with religion most recently expressed around the discovery of a subatomic particle called the Higgs.  The Higgs Particle has long been predicted mathematically to exist, and in 2012 it was finally observed. (sidebar: The fact that Creation is so finely tuned and well-ordered that it can be described mathematically is, in itself, a mark of our amazing Creator.  This has been referred to as the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.”) 

     The Higgs is an astounding particle that exists everywhere in the Universe, and as particle physicists understand it, it is responsible for giving matter its characteristic of “mass” (you can think of it as weight).  What this means is that, without the Higgs and gravity (an elementary force that scientist still do not fully understand), everything would literally not hold together. Some physicist somewhere has dubbed it the God Particle.  What is even more incredible, the Higgs is perfectly designed and tuned to do this very thing.

     So, let’s see if we have this right- Our Triune God creates a particle through which He holds the universe together.  Does not this not sound much like Colossians 1:17?         

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Reformation Celebration- Sola Scriptura

Celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation
Sermon preached on Sunday, Oct 1
The Reverend Rob Hartley

 I was baptized in a church in Columbia as an infant in Jan, 1948.  My parents and godparents took the baptismal vows on my behalf and vowed to raise me in the Church. They and my church family did just that. 12 years later in a church in Mt Pleasant, SC, I confirmed those baptismal vows, making the Faith my own.  The Faith that was planted in me in those years took root, shaping my relationship with God, my understanding of the world, and my purpose and place in it. 

 I was given my first Bible in those days by my Godmother.  This Bible, tattered and old like me, continues to be a symbol of the what was planted in me.  My roots were sunk deeply into the biblical worldview- a worldview that I was to find to be unambiguous, sure and true.  I may not have always walked faithfully the path that my feet were first placed upon back in those days, but I knew where the path was and how to find my way home.  Interestingly, over a half-century later, I was to serve as an ordained clergyman in the same church in Columbia in which I had been baptized those many years earlier.  Today, my bishop, under whose authority I presently function, is resident at the parish in which I was Confirmed.  By the grace of God, I have not strayed far from my roots.

 In our Epistle reading this morning, 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Paul writes to Timothy about this sort of faith that is rooted in Scripture and which I received as a child:

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

 In October we are launching into our celebration of the 500 anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  One of the marks of the Reformation was a renewed emphasis and sensitivity to the primacy of Scripture.  This had been largely lost in the medieval Church and displaced with other sources of authority; moreover, the Bible was almost totally inaccessible to the common person.  The Protestant Reformation was largely a reaction to this and to other deviations from the Apostolic Faith that had encrusted the Church through the centuries. 

 In my growing-up years I was also given, along with my first Bible, my first prayer book.  The Book of Common Prayer was first composed in 1549 by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer at the dawn of the Reformation in England.  This book placed both worship and Scripture in the hands of the people.  We will learn more about the BCP in weeks to come, but let me read to you once again the opening collect we prayed this morning.  It was composed by then Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer for the first Book of Common Prayer as an expression of this return to Sola Scriptura as the foundation of our Faith.  Here it is in old English as Cranmer pinned it:

BLESSED lord, which hast caused all holy Scriptures to bee written for our learnyng; graunte us that we maye in suche wise heare them, read, marke, learne, and inwardly digeste them; that by pacience, and coumfort of thy holy woorde, we may embrace, and ever holde fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast geven us in our saviour Jesus Christe.

 Thomas Cranmer, along with other bishops and clergy of the English Church, had long kept one eye on the reforms on the Continent led by Luther, Calvin and others.  We will be learning more about the history of what would become known as the Protestant Reformation in this month ahead.  Cranmer grew into his awareness that reform was necessary in the English Church.  As King Henry VIII’s archbishop, however, Cranmer had to bide his time.  The English Church had been separated from Rome a number of years earlier primarily due to Henry’s personal needs and greeds, but Henry largely kept his thumb on any changes to the piety and practices of the Church, except where it served his purposes.  Upon the death of Henry in 1547, Cranmer moved forward with his reforms under Protestant King Edward VI. 

 During Edward’s Reign, three things were published in English under Cranmer’s leadership: A Book of Homilies in 1547; the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549; and Articles of Religion in 1553.  These documents defined the broad reforms to take place in the English Church, mirroring what was taking place on the Continent. 

 We have already talked a bit about the Cranmer’s prayer book- let us look at these other two Reformation documents in relation to our topic, Sola Scriptura:  
Cranmer’s Homilies:  Homilies were written to be read in all English parishes.   The very first homily is titled A Fruitful exhortation to the reading of holy Scripture.”  Cranmer writes, “To a Christian man there can bee nothing either more necessarie or profitable, then the knowledge of holy Scripture, forasmuch as in it is conteyned [contained] GODS true word, setting foorth his glory, and also mans duety…  Therefore forsaking the corrupt iudgement of fleshly men, which care not but for their carkasse: let vs reuerently heare and read holy Scriptures, which is the foode of the soule (quoting Matthew 4.4).  Let vs diligently search for the Well of Life in the bookes of the New and Old Testament, and not runne to the stinking puddles of mens traditions (deuised by mens imagination) for our iustification and saluation.”

 Articles of Religion:  Article VI- Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”  [Article VI goes on to describe which books make up Holy Scripture and are canonical and authoritative.]

The Reformation, therefore, recovered for us Scripture as the sole and ultimate authority for Christian living.  This does not mean that tradition, or the teaching offices of the church, or the power of human intellect and reasoning are not useful and edifying to the faith, but all must be tested against God’s written Word.  The Holy Spirit, who inspired the writing of Scripture, is also intimately involved in guiding the individual Christian life and illuminating Scripture for the believer.  We can test to see, however, that we are indeed listening to the Holy Spirit and not some other spirit (such as the Spirit of the Age).  The Holy Spirit will not lead the believer contrary to the Word of God.

Why all this talk about authority?  Because we are all going to listen to some voice of authority in our lives.  God is a God of revelation, revealing Himself and His will to us.  He speaks into our history; He acts in our lives.  God speaks into our lives through the Written Word.  What better source for living could there be than the words of Almighty God who created us. 

Finally, let me draw your attention to both our Old Testament and Gospel readings for this morning.  In our reading from Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-5, we hear the story of God having created mankind places them in the garden and tells them they are to work it and keep it.  His Word to them: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  The humans disregard God’s Word and listen to another voice- that of Satan… “Did God really say…”.  They eat; sin, corruption and death enter Creation, and the man and woman are driven out of the garden into the wilderness to toil against a Creation now tainted by their disobedience.

In the Gospel reading today (Matthew 4:1-11), we have another story of listening or not listening to the Word of God, that of Jesus, not in a garden, but in the wilderness fasting for 40 days.  In contrast to Adam’s disobedience, the New Adam, Jesus, the new prototype for humanity, obeys the Word of God: “The tempter came to Jesus [as he does to Eve in the garden]. Satan says, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Thus Jesus, as the new model for humanity, opens the way from the wildernesses of our lives back into the Garden, reversing the curse of the fall, and allowing us to once again walk with our Heavenly Father in cool of the evening, to use the imagery of Genesis.  What is contrasted here in Genesis and Matthew is the disobedience of Adam and obedience of Jesus’s to the Word of God.

So, today we celebrate the great Reformation theme, Sola Scriptura.  We are to live, not by cleverly crafted words and ways of this world, “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

To God be the Glory! Amen.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Letting Go of the Other Person’s Throat

In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter comes to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

Jesus makes it clear that, in the great economy of the Kingdom of God, forgiveness is not an option.  In fact, in the parable that Jesus tells following Peter’s question, we see that God’s forgiveness of us is inextricably and uncomfortably tied to our forgiveness of others. 

Scripture has plenty to say about forgiveness: 
·   In Mark 11:25-26 Jesus says, "Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."

·   Paul in Ephesians 4 writes, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.”   

·   And, of course, in our beloved Lord’s Prayer given us in both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, Jesus prays, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  How Jesus’ words would have been understood in its original context is that God forgives us in proportion to our forgiveness of others.  And if that is not uncomfortably clear enough, Matthew records Jesus driving this point home with these words, “14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt 6)

Jesus should have our undivided attention on this issue.  The bottom line is that Jesus is telling us that we cannot appropriate the mercy, compassion and forgiveness of God if we ourselves do not choose to extend mercy, compassion and forgiveness to others;

Still, we all struggle to forgive the transgressions and traumas of our lives.   Unforgiveness can shape our lives, define our identity, even determine our destiny.  It darkens, deadens and can even destroy our life.  It morphs into bitterness, and bitterness into anger.  Instead of becoming a child of God unconditionally loving those around us, we are angry and bitter.

It is helpful to be clear about what forgiveness is and is not: It is not pretending it did not happen; it is not acting like it really wasn’t all that bad; it is not turning a blind eye; it is not forgetting.  Forgiving does not mean moving back into a trust relationship with the person who injured you. Although it is a prerequisite, forgiveness is not necessarily reconciliation or restoration.  

Forgiveness, fundamentally, is release- “letting go of the other person’s throat,” to quote from the book, The Shack (W. P. Young).  Forgiveness is giving your pain, bitterness and anger to God and trusting Him with it.  Even when reconciliation is not possible, release is.  Jesus on the Cross said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  True Christian forgiveness is mercy based, not justice based.

What, then, are you to do?  This is where God’s Holy Spirit comes in.    It is by the working of the God’s Holy Spirit in our lives that our minds, hearts and wills are transformed such that we can learn to forgive the way Jesus forgives.  We think of forgiveness as an emotion, but at its heart, forgiveness is an act of the will- aligning our will with God’s will.  Even when you do not feel like forgiving, forgiveness is possible- thanks be to God! 

Here is what you can do?
·      Through the Holy Spirit in you, seek the grace to forgive:  We cannot do it out of our old, unconverted nature.   If you really want to obey his command to forgive, then pray for and open yourself to Him empowering you to do so.

·      Again, through the Holy Spirit in you, choose to forgive:  Align your will and spirit with the will and Spirit of Jesus

·      Pray for those who have transgressed in your life: Pray that God forgive them, but also pray that God will convert their heart as He is converting yours.

·      Finally, ask God to forgive you:  not just for passing judgement on the other person, which in unforgiveness you are surely doing, but ask God also to forgive you for the ways you have taken on and owned your unforgiveness and carried it with you like and old worn out bag.  Agreeing and clinging to unforgiveness in your heart is not your offender’s sin- it is yours.

By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, may we learn to forgive.                                   Father Rob

Friday, September 22, 2017

Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation at Holy Trinity

Christianity, now 2000 years old, was instituted by God “in the fullness if time” (i.e. at the right time), that God might redeem a fallen and hurting world back to Himself.  He stepped into Creation in the person of Jesus, providing a full revelation of Himself and of His perfect will for humankind, in order that “all who believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) 

Jesus instructed His church to be His continuing presence in the world and, as His ambassadors, carry on His work of redemption: Jesus commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

We imperfect humans, still tainted as sons and daughters of Adam and products the “The Fall,” have not always gotten “being the Church” right.  A remarkable thing happened in the 16th C, however, to help the Church turn back to the Truth, to the basics, and to biblical foundations that God had given us in Christ.  This came to be known as The Protestant Reformation.  Men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli and Thomas Cranmer stepped forward to correct deviations from the truths once delivered to the Church through the Apostles.  The Reformation was not about anything new, but about returning to the unchanged and unchanging revelation of God in Christ.

This upcoming All Saints Eve (October 31) marks the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation when Martin Luther purportedly nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints Church, Wittenberg.  This occasion gives us a great opportunity to connect with our Reformation heritage and revisit for ourselves these great truths that lay at the heart of the Reformation.  In October and early November, we are thus going to do the following:

1.      Sunday preaching series on the “Five Solas:”  The Five Solas are five Latin phrases that emerged from the Protestant Reformation intended to summarize the Reformers' biblical principles.

Oct   1                    Sola Scriptura              Scripture Alone

Oct   8                    Solus Christus              Christ Alone

Oct 15                    Sola Fide                     Faith Alone

Oct 22                    Sola Gratia                  Grace Alone

Oct 29                    Soli Deo Gloria            To the Glory of God Alone

2.       Friday evening, Oct 20, the movie “Luther:” The movie will be introduced with background teachings on the life, witness and work of Martin Luther by one of our clergy.

3.       All Saints Weekend, Nov 3 and 4 -  “A Reformation Celebration:” With a covered-dish fellowship  supper Friday evening, and a continental breakfast Saturday morning, we will celebrate our Reformation Heritage and discuss the life, works, witness and theology of the Continental and British Reformers, and how that set the stage for us today and for worldwide Protestantism.  

Mark your calendars!

Father Rob+

Friday, September 8, 2017

Sabbath Worship

Isaiah 56:6-7

…all who keep the Sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant-- these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

        Sunday worship is among the most important things the Body of Christ does when it gathers together.  As Christians we understand that offering an adoring response to the God who loves us and gives us life is fundamental to our relationship with Him. 

        Sabbath worship is obviously important to God.  He gave us the Sabbath and made it His 4th Commandment.  The Sabbath is not only a day of resting, it is a day of resting in the Lord, a Holy Day to honor God and to be with Him. 

             A striking feature of Christian worship is that it is a celebration of the immanence (presence, closeness) of God.  Most religions celebrate their god’s transcendence (his or her aloofness and untouchableness).  We do the same, of course, as attested to in the stateliness and reverence of our Anglican liturgy, but it is the intimate presence of God upon which we focus and celebrate.  We do not gather to celebrate a memory or an idea of God being aloof and far off; we gather to celebrate His presence. Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

We also gather to celebrate a victory, an Easter victory.   This is why our Sabbath is on the first day of the week, the Day of our Lord’s Resurrection.  Our expectation in worship is that Christ, the risen and living God, comes to us as His people gathered, as surely as He came to the Apostles in the Upper Room on Easter morning.

        Sunday morning worship offers us the opportunity to step out of our normal routines, step out of time and space, and step into eternity and into the presence of God, albeit for only an hour and twenty minutes on a Sunday.  Each Sunday we recite from Isaiah 6 (The Sanctus) which reminds us that we, like Isaiah, are being brought into the presence of the Almighty.  Isaiah records, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.”

        This passage from Isaiah, along with other Scripture such as Chapters 4, 5 and 7 of the Book of Revelation, remind us that we are not the only part of the created order that has worship as a fundamental response to our Creator.  Angels also worship, and it is not hard to imagine that as we worship on Sunday mornings, we have the heavenly host worshiping with us.

        Worship is offering something very precious to God - ourselves.  Our Eucharistic liturgy says, “we offer ourselves, our souls and bodies, as a living sacrifice,” and Scripture speaks of us offering a sacrifice of praise:  Hebrews 13:15- “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

         We Christians therefore recognize our responsibility to God and our fellow Christians to be present at Sabbath worship.  Too often we come on Sunday mornings seeking what we will get out of worship, which is a good and proper expectation to have, but we first come seeking the face of God, honoring God, offering a sacrifice of praise, and supporting our brothers and sisters in doing the same.

        A joyful truth about our worship is that the Holy Spirit, God Himself, empowers and anoints us to worship Him.  Our worship is Spirit-filled and Spirit-lead, if we will allow it to be.  In Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John Chapter 4, our Lord says, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The Holy Spirit creates true and Spirit-filled worship, for as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Spirit.”  It is the Holy Spirit who checks our unworthy instincts, inspires our prayers, moves us to praise, convicts us, and changes us.  Our expectation is that we leave worship differently from how we came in, and, as we know, it is the indwelling Holy Spirit who is the instrument of Godly change in our lives.

        Finally, Christian worship is permeated with a deep sense of participation, mutual support, and fellowship.  We did not come to have someone worship for us.  Early Christian communities gathered for worship to honor and celebrate God, to seek a touch from Him, and to support fellow Christians in their desire to do the same.  We get a sense of this in Acts 2- “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

        Is being absent from Sunday worship a sin?  It depends, of course.  What we do know is that sin is anything outside of the will of God for us, and the Lord obviously wills that His people be gathered together with Him on the Lord’s Day.   My suggestion, therefore, is to be there.  God will be glorified by your presence and you will be blessed by being in His.                                        Father Rob+

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Let the Little Children Come to Me

Matthew 19:14   Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

      At our weekly fellowship supper, the last Wednesday of July, we explored together Matthew 18-19.  In Chapter 18 Jesus brings a little child into their midst.  In verse 6, He says, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.  Jesus does not just refer to any millstone, but to a large one, and not just any place, but the sea, which, for the Jews, was a place to be greatly feared and avoided.  In this bit of rabbinic hyperbole, Jesus is expressing the extreme importance of being careful what we teach (or do not teach) to our children.  For us to sin is one thing, but to teach children to sin (“stumble,’ as this passage states it) is among the greatest of travesties in the Kingdom of God.
       Raising up children to be among “those who believe in me,” whether they are our children, our grandchildren, or the young people in our church family, is a great responsibility.  When a child is baptized, we as a congregation vow to “do all in our power to support these persons in their life in Christ.
      In our flawed and fallen human condition, none of us is going to get child-rearing perfectly right, but that does not lessen the gravity and importance of the calling.  It is about either the destruction or maintenance of a child’s innocence.  It is about teaching a child to avoid sin or to “stumble,” to honor God or ignore Him, to seek and obey God’s good and perfect will for his or her life or go the way of the world.  Parenting and the nurture of children are therefore an awesome and grave responsibility.
      Here are a few things we can do to shape young lives into becoming inheritors of the Kingdom of God:  
·      Let your child know that God is important.  If God is important to you, He will most likely be important to him or her.  Being a nominal Christian, keeping God at the periphery of your life, and not seeking to allow God to transform and dictate your life and behavior, will teach your child to do the same. 
·      Let your child or grandchild know that Sunday is indeed the Lord’s Day, a day to honor God and gather as the Body of Christ.  It is good and proper that Sundays be days of family fun and relaxation, but Sundays are not like just any other day.
·      Let them know that prayer is contact and conversation with God, something good to do.  God listens and cares.  God answers prayer.  Simply praying at bedtime, or praying around the dinner table, either at home or in a restaurant, can contribute significantly to forming our children in the Christian Worldview.
·      Let your children know that learning about God and how to live as a Christian is as important as what they are learning in school or elsewhere.  As a parent, let them know that Sunday school is important and not to be left as an option for them to choose. 
·      Let your child know that there is something special about Scripture.  Read and discuss the Bible with them, even if it is just a short passage each evening.
·     Finally, let them know that being a Christian is being different.  We live in a secular society with different values and morals.  To be identifiably a Christian in a non-Christian world is their way of being faithful to Jesus.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Personhood of the Unborn

I question the appropriateness of legislating Christian morality in a non-Christian, secular society such as ours.  What is happening instead,  however,   non-Christian morality is being patently legislated upon Christians.   A vivid example is abortion on-demand, which is and has been for quite a while now the law of our land.  Abortion on-demand is morally, biblically, sociologically and scientifically wrong. It is an affront to God's law (“Thou shalt not murder”) and, from a human rights standpoint, a violation of the right to life of pre-born children.  

What drives my view on this?  Three things:
·   First and foremost is my biblical worldview:

Psalm 139

You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully

and wonderfully made. 

Wonderful are your works;

that I know very well.

15My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. 

In your book were written all the days

that were formed for me,

when none of them as yet existed.
·   Secondly, scientifically we know that a human being’s unique genetic code is established at the moment of conception; therefore, conception is both reasonably and scientifically the beginning of an individual person. (What the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision functionally did was declare the unborn child not a person.) 

·   Finally, sociologically the abortion issue is enmeshed in the half-century old sexual revolution and the resulting liberalization of sexuality.  This has been the major contributor to the deterioration of the indispensable building block of any healthy society- the healthy, intact, nuclear family.  It seems to me that God knew what He was doing when He established marriage, family and His boundaries around human sexuality. 

Simply stated, the value and sacredness of the life of the unborn child needs to be recognized in the decision-making on the termination of a pregnancy.  None of this negates the rights of the mother, but, at least for me, places it all in a Godly, scientific and sociologically healthy perspective. Christians, like everyone else, have a voice in asserting this and helping to chart a morally proper direction for this country on abortion.  We, as a church, need to not be silent on this issue.  Our bishops and many in the ACNA have definitely not been.

(By the way, I struggle with this strange notion of “independent viability” of the unborn child as a definition of personhood.  That could equally be applied to when a child is weened, or even later when they can provide food and shelter for themselves.  This makes a strange argument!)

One initiative you should know about that is taking place in South Carolina is the Personhood Constitutional Amendment (S.719 / H.4093) presently in committee in the SC Legislature.  The amendment seeks to define the status of the unborn child as a person in the eyes of the law.  You can read more about it at

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Sanctification: A Sermon for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, 2017

Sermon, July 2, 2017

Readings:  Jeremiah 28:5-9      Psalm 89:1-4,15-18       Romans 6:12-23         Matthew 10:40-42

We here at Holy Trinity this past Wednesday evening had the opportunity to share the stories of our journey in Christ.  My thanks to all who did so.  I wrote down some of what I heard:
·       These were stories about leaving the brokenness of this world behind- our childhood traumas, life’s disappointments, despair, depression, addiction, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, self-willed living, all the stuff this world throws at us and wants to use to define us.

·       We heard about lives turning to Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit, coming to be defined by fresh direction, purpose, growth, learning, self-giving, generous living, power to overcome, hope, joy, security, inner peace, victory over addiction, surrender, obedience, and more.

·      What was true in each story is that they are not yet complete- God has more.  Everyone who spoke expressed a trajectory for their lives- a forward movement.  All the stories were about a growing relationship with God.

These Wednesday evening sharings were about spiritual pilgrimages toward victorious living.  Not all stories in this life, however, are about victory.  We all know people who are being crushed under the weight of this world and under their own sins, dysfunctions and addictions.  Some of us, even in this church family, are on no journey at all, parked in some less-than-God-pleasing place in life… yet comfortable, familiar, where we choose to stay.

But in our Romans 6 reading today Paul writes, “19For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.”  Paul uses the word sanctification here and again in verse 22.  Let’s focus on this word for a moment.

In the original Greek in which Paul wrote, the word that we translate as sanctification is hagiasmos: hagi meaning holy; asmos meaning process.  To Paul, sanctification, is the process of becoming holy, a day-by-day process, a journey, like the stories that were shared this past Wednesday evening.  For us Christians, life becomes a pilgrimage into the sanctified life, a journey into wholeness and holiness.

The Christian Pilgrimage begins with repentance, conversion and (pardon the big theological word) regeneration.  The biblical Greek word for repentance is metenoia, which literally means to change one’s mind, to turn, change directions, walk a different path.  Conversion is, simply stated, Jesus becoming our Lord and Savior.  Regeneration is, by virtue of God’s Holy Spirit taking up residence in us, we are a “new creation.”  In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul writes, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”  God has given us a sacrament to mark this point in our spiritual journey, the beginning of our journey of sanctification; it is called Baptism.

Our journey into holiness, however, is not just about the Holy Spirit working in us, it is also about the Holy Spirit working with us.  God does not override our free will; we have to want to grow in Christ and be willing to surrender to what God is doing in us.   We have to want what God has always wanted for us, a journey in wholeness and holiness, a life redeemed and sanctified by Him, a life with the grime of this world washed away.

This is what our Christian Pilgrimage is all about.  What does your pilgrimage, your journey look like?  What is your story?  Are you on a journey into Christlikeness?  Is your journey bearing fruit? (i.e. Fruit of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control Gal 5:22-23).  Or is your journey toward health, wholeness and holiness stalled?  Are you parked on eh side of the road somewhere? Are you failing to be intentional and proactive in seeking what the Lord has for you in this life?  Are you today pretty much where you with the Lord yesterday, last year, last decade?  God has more for you than what defines your life today.  
So, what can we do to seek the sanctified life?  
·     Cooperate with His Holy Spirit who is at work in you.  Be intentional about growing in Christ.  Do not let the world decide for you if you are going to be a new creation or not.  Choose Christ!

·    Be immersed in God’s family and a part of what the Holy Spirit is doing in this place.

·    Seek a holistic spirituality of worship, spiritual growth, learning, service and generosity.  Don’t leave any part of your life for the devil to carve out as his own.  You belong to Christ- all of you. 

·     Even if you have in the past let sin tell you what to do, you now have a new master, One who sets you free and transforms you into His sons and daughters.  He gives you an inheritance which is eternal life with Him.  Start living eternal life today.

A closing prayer based on 1 Thessalonians 5:23:  O Lord, it is you who places our feet upon the path that leads to eternal life.  We thank you for sending Your Holy Spirit into our lives and making us a holy temple, a sanctuary, totally acceptable to You.  May You, the God of peace, sanctify us entirely; and may our spirits, souls and bodies be found sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Friday, June 30, 2017

June 24 Prayer Rally for our nation and our leaders- Downtown North Augusta

Prayers Offered

Dear Heavenly Father, Creator of all things, and Sustainer of all that is good, wholesome and right, we approach your Throne of Grace on behalf of our nation.
  • We confess our own personal sin and culpability in what is taking place in our nation. 
  • We repent and seek forgiveness on behalf of ourselves and our nation for the ways we have drifted away from the Godly foundations upon which this great country was built.  We pray you strengthen your hand of grace upon us as we place our eyes back upon you.  
  • We pray you continue to raise up Godly leaders from among us, and that you give them the mind of Christ and a character pleasing to You.  We pray for our leaders present here today, and all our leaders everywhere. 
  • We pray against the divisions that rack our nation, and ask you to restore the peace and unity that this country has known so well. 
  • Finally, Lord, we pray for true pluralism in which religious freedom can be found for all, and we pray that we Christians faithfully stand as a counter-voice to the secularism and paganism that opposes that freedom.

But in the midst of it all, Lord God, we cannot help but give thanks to You for being our God and calling us to be Your people.  We thank You for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love shown us in our redemption through our Lord Jesus Christ.  And, we pray, give us such an awareness of all your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

June 24 Prayer Rally in Downtown. North Augusta

"These are different sort of times we live in- we know it as post-modern and post-Christian.   It is, however, coming to be more than that.  It is becoming anti-Christian.  We are here today to publically and very specifically pray into that."

"In terms of our Judeo-Christian foundation as a nation, we have lost our footing.   We no longer, at least publically, acknowledge God’s grace as the underpinning of this great nation.  We have jettisoned values that have allowed this nation to prosper and to stand out among the nations of the world.  We have forsaken our Christian birthright."

"Eph. 6:12 tells us, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. All that is good and right about our nation is therefore being laid defenseless before Satan.  We as a nation have made ourselves as vulnerable to Satan’s wiles as all other nation on this planet.  American exceptionalism, clearly a gift from God, is being devoured, and we now are playing this game society-building on Satan’s home court rather than in the courts of the Lord."
"But as Scripture says, “the battle is mine, says the Lord.”  God’s weapon is our faithfulness and prayers of His people.  I am thankful for the faithfulness of Christians such as you who are willing to come together on this hot summer morning to pray and stand in the gap for our country."

"The 19th C pastor and song-writer, Samuel Francis Smith, understood the beauty and power of real freedom.  And he knew that true freedom comes only from the One True God. our King.  Apart from the living God freedom is impossible.  Smith calls God the "Author of Liberty" in the hymn we will sing together today, "My Country 'tis of Thee."