Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sermon, Sept 16, 2018 (proper 19) "But who do you say that I am?" Mk 8:29

        In Mark 8 Jesus and His disciples take a field trip north of Galilee, to a place known as Caesarea Philippi, almost into what is modern day Lebanon.  In Jesus’ day, it was about as pagan a place as you could find, with temples commemorations to Canaanite and Greek God’s such as Baal and Pan. There was then and still is to this day a yawning cave entrance on the site.  It was considered the entrance to the underworld, the gates of hades. A number of us in this congregation visited Caesarea Philippi together a number of years back.  It is a memorable place.

        It was to this place that Jesus brings His disciples this morning.  The question is why. Why this place?  Jesus, and later His disciples, understood that he was God breaking into this corrupt and evil world and reclaiming it for the Kingdom of God.  What better place could there be than Caesarea Philippi to demonstrate that dichotomy 
        He asks the question, “Who do people say that I am,” but Jesus’ real question to His disciples comes next, “Who do you say that I am?  It is like a single-question final exam, and Peter gives the right answer.  He says, You are the Christ.”  Luke in His Gospel quotes Jesus and Peter in much the same way as Mark, but Matthew, who, by the way, was there on this graduation trip to Caesarea Philippi, provides a bit meatier quote (Matt 16:16-18), “Simon Peter answers, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ 17 And Jesus says, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock (Peter means Rock) I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’” Hopefully you are catching the scene.

        But Jesus just spent 3 years teaching about the Kingdom of God and God’s expectation of His people in becoming citizens of the Kingdom of God, rather citizens of this world.  So, why, this one particular question?  Why didn’t Jesus ask a question about the significance of his miracles and healings, or his teaching on the beatitudes?  Jesus asks nothing of this sort, just, “Who do you say that I am?”
        I think most of us know the answer.  This exchange between Jesus and Peter takes us as Christians to the central affirmation of our Faith, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  As St. Paul writes in Colossians 1:15 “[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”  Not that other questions and other answers are unimportant.  It is just that the essence of Christianity is not to be found in the teachings of Jesus, but in the person of Jesus- Who Jesus is.

        The Gospel of John has a unique focus on this question of who Jesus is.  In John 6 ,Jesus say, -  I am the Bread of Life.” [in other words, the essence, source and sustenance of life].  John 8:58- “Before Abraham, I am.” Jesus says.  John 10:30_ “I and the Father are one.”

        And the first Christian creed was a simple one: “Jesus is Lord.”  St. Paul states in Philippians 2:10-11, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

          The great call of the Old Testament prophets was “Turn to God;” but Jesus says, “Turn to me.”  Matthew 11:28- “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

        And we might think that the Bible is the story of our quest for God, when in fact, most of the Bible is about our running away from God- disobeying, rebelling, dishonoring, ignoring God.  The Bible is really about God’s quest for us.  John 1:14 – “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Why does God in Christ come to us? The answer is that God loves us too much to abandon us to ourselves.

        Jesus being God in the flesh is what we call the Incarnation.  The Incarnation, along with eh Cross and Resurrection, what we can call in Salvation history the Christ Event, is the single most significant event in human history since creation itself.  It is God’s great rescue mission of His beloved.  We cannot fathom the Incarnation without standing on this side of the Cross and Resurrection and looking back, and we need to have the Holy Spirit Himself open our minds to the amazing reality of it.  St. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 12:3- “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.  I think it was true for the Apostles at Caesarea Philippi in our reading this morning, and it is true for us.
        So, the heart of our faith is not what church we go to, the things we do or don’t do, the good works we do, or the good life we lead; the central tenant of our faith is the person of Jesus Incarnate, who comes to forgive us, redeem us, and love us, and restore us to eternal life with the Father.

        There is a person who had a great deal to do with my spiritual formation many years ago.  He was a gifted teacher in the Church named Terry Fullam.  He once asked us this question: “You [that is, we Christians] are in on the ultimate secret of history- is it making a difference?  [He is talking about it making a difference both in our own lives and the lives of the people around us.  So, this morning I want to ask you that question.  How has knowing who Jesus is made a difference in your life?  Here are some possible thoughts you may have on that:

         1.     First, because of who Jesus is, you know that you are redeemed and your eternal salvation is sure; so, are you claiming the peace that surpasses understanding and the joy of living in Christ that comes with that?  Joy and peace are your inheritance, a gift from God that the world cannot take away! Jesus says in John 14:27- “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives but as I give to you.”  Worldly struggles can take much from us, but if you really know who Jesus is, it can’t take thist away from us.  You can find such peace and assurance nowhere else aside from the promises of God in Christ Jesus.  Are you claiming your inheritance?
        2.     Another difference it can and should make in your life knowing you are forgiven and are invited to live a life free of guilt and condemnation?  Jesus is Lord, and only God can forgive sins.  Jesus comes to us fulfilling the prophecy of the Psalmist is Psalm 103:12 -“As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”  This world has a way of keeping you in bondage to your past, but Jesus never does.  Jesus forgives your past and cares only about your future.
        3.     A final thought… Is it making a difference in your life knowing that Jesus is God incarnate who loves you un-conditionally and has shown you that you can love others un-conditionally in the same way.  John 13:34- “… just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”  One of the great blessings of the Christian life is the spiritual gift of loving people right where they are in their brokenness, dysfunction and sin, seeking the best for them.  That is exactly what Jesus does for us all. Romans 5:8- “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

        There are probably many other ways that Jesus as Lord of your life is making a difference in how you live it?  I invite you to think about them and perhaps share them with one another at Adult Forum after this service.

         Jesus is asking you, " who do you say that I am?"  Like Peter, you need to get the answer right.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Sermon for 10th Sunday of Pentecost

Sermon for 10th Sunday of Pentecost (Proper 12B), July 29, 2018

The God of Abundance

The Rev. Rob Hartley

         I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s in the small town of Mt. Pleasant on the eastern rim of Charleston Harbor, but I attended grade school and later high school in downtown Charleston.  Each day I would ride a school bus across the old Cooper River Bridge- narrow, spindly and high and scary.  Even then that bridge was old having been built in the 1930’s.  Crossing that bridge each day was, in itself, an act of faith.  The bus would rumble across the bridge and into downtown Charleston.  We would pass through a section of town known as Ansonboro.  Back then, Ansonboro was a poorer section of Charleston.  On the corner of Wentworth and Meeting Streets was a fountain fed by an artesian well right next to the Ansonboro fire station.  The flow was impressive in that it never stopped.  I could imagine the people of the Ansonboro, before indoor running water was available, coming to that well to get water, all the water they wanted.  The abundance of that well was in contrast the impoverishment of the neighborhood around it.

        Scripture makes it clear that our God is a God of Abundance, yet we find ourselves in a world characterized by material, emotional and spiritual impoverishment.  How did this come to be?  We can look at the story Genesis 3 for the answer.  Adam and Eve were created to be in the Garden where there needs were perfectly met.  They communed with God and walked with Him in the cool of the evening, as the story goes.  But this changed when the chasm between God and man came to be as a result of our rebellion and disobedience.  The story goes on with God saying,

cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”…
23 The Lord God sent them out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 

        This morning readings, however, give a foreshadowing of our return to a life under an abundant God.  
·        From 2 Kings we have the Prophet Elisha “Give [the loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain] to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” ·        Verse 17 our Psalm this morning- You [Lord] open wide your hand *and satisfy the needs of every living creature. 
·        In our Epistle reading, Paul writes, “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Fullness… Pleroma in the original Geek, from which we get the word Plethora, which means over-abundance. 
·        And finally, from our Gospel story this morning on the feeding of the 5,000, what started with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish, and ended, after all had eaten, with fragments that filled twelve baskets.

        Don’t worry, this is not going to be a prosperity Gospel sermon.  The Prosperity Gospel is preaching a material prosperity.  Jesus himself had nothing except what he wore on his back, yet from a Kingdom of God perspective, he is the richest man to ever walk this earth.  So, let’s not get distracted in thinking about material abundance, although God does materially provide us with all that we need.  Here is what Jesus has to say about this in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…31 Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
        From God’s perspective, therefore, what we truly need the most is not material.  What we need is what Jesus comes to give in abundance: abundant grace, abundant love, abundant compassion, abundant forgiveness, abundant self-giving.  As Jesus says in John 10:10, I have come to give [you] life and give it in abundance.
        Do you have the abundant life Christ came to bring to you?  Are you living large in Jesus?  If not, how is Jesus tell you to appropriate the abundant life?
        First is to reset your priorities: We seek after scraps under the table when our Lord has offered us a seat at the banquet.  As we just read from Matthew 6: 33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
        Secondly, if you want the abundant life that Jesus can give, it will require you to walk in fellowship and communion with Him, seek to return to that state when we walked in the cool of the evening with God.  Seek His face. Spend time with him like you are doing right now on this Lord’s Day.  In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
        And finally, of course, there is the Holy Spirit whom Jesus asks the Father to send to us to lead us into the abundant life.   The abundant life is the Spirit-filled life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), the fruit of a life surrendered to the guidance and governance of the Holy Spirit.  We can see what this Spirit-filled life looks like in the life of the Apostles themselves:  Before the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the only thing the Apostles had in abundance were failure, fear and faithlessness; after Pentecost, they have an abundance power, purpose and praise for the Lord who has transformed them. 
        So, in conclusion, God is a God of extravagant abundance.  We appropriate the abundant life, the bounty promised to all who follow Jesus, not by gathering scraps under the table, but by taking our place at the great banquet the Lord has prepared for us.  Seek the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of this world.  Follow Christ, become His disciple, be in union with Him, which is what God desires above all else.  And finally, surrender to the Holy Spirit who lives in you.  The Holy Spirit is the power to transcend the spiritual impoverishment and misplaced priorities of this world, rise above them, and experience the abundant life promised to all of us who are followers of Christ.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sermon- Sunday June 17, 2018- The Rev. Rob Hartley

Sermon- Pent 4B- June 17, 2018- Growing the Kingdom  

The God Bench

As many of you know, Kanuga is a church conference center near Hendersonville, NC.  Groups of us from this church have gone there on a number of occasions; in fact, a group of us are going next week for the renewal conference.  For me, Kanuga has always been one of those “Thin Places,” which is an expression that developed in Celtic Christianity to describe those special places where the fabric between heaven and earth seem to be drawn so thinly that one can almost reach through and touch the face of God.  Kanuga has been part of my growing up in The Faith, and it has been at Kanuga that I regularly, almost palpably, encounter God in special ways.  It is my Thin


In previous sermons, I have spoken about one special trail that goes around Kanuga Lake.  On the far side of the lake along the trail is a towering cross that is visible from the conference center. The trail has a wonderful beauty about it at that point with huge Mountain Laurels forming almost a tunnel through which the trail passes.  Right there is a bench.  I have on numerous occasions met the Lord while sitting on that bench, sometimes with great joy and thanksgiving, sometimes with a heavy heart or with some deep need, sometimes seeking guidance or wisdom from the Lord.  For years that bench has been for me a place of communing with the Lord and moving into Him.

Last summer we were at Kanuga for a week with our youngest son and his family.  It was a delight being there for the first time with three of our grandchildren and being able to share with them that place which has been so special to my life over the years. 

I am a person of patterns and habits, and it is my habit to rise at first light each morning at Kanuga and walk around the lake to that bench behind the cross on the far side of the lake.  My then 6-year-old grandson got up when he heard me up; so I invited him to join me.  My grandson was excited about the invitation, and we quietly snuck out of our cabin and headed around the lake. We sat on that bench and spent time talking to God and to each other.  My grandson and I call it the God Bench.  

For the rest of the week, he would listen for my getting up, and be right there.  On those walks around the Lake to the God Bench, I could see the seeds of the Kingdom of God taking root in the fresh soil of the soul this young man.  I shared some of my experiences of God and what it means to belong to God and not to the world.  This August we will again be at Kanuga with my son and his family.  My grandson has already asked about taking our early morning walks to the God Bench.

Growing the Kingdom

The world teaches our children a great deal about being in the world but nothing about appropriating the Kingdom of God, that is, the rule of God, in their lives.  Faith, at least to some extent, use to be woven into the fabric of American public life, but not anymore.  Today, if anything is taught in our culture about the Faith, it is that it is obsolete, irrelevant and even inappropriate to modern life. This is an impoverished message for our children to be receiving, given the fact that they have been created to be in communion with the God who created them. 

As Christians we have answers to first order questions of life, ones my grandson is asking or will be asking, some of which we discussed sitting on the God Bench.  These are questions our secular culture either ignores or is unable to answer, such as: Where did we come from? Why are we here?  What is our purpose?  What is our eternal destiny? How can we really know our Creator? How can we approach a perfect and holy God given our less-than-perfect and holy lives?  The list can go on. 

We all know that growing the Kingdom of God in our young people has always been the job of the Christian family and the Church.  Attending to that job seems to be even more crucial these days.  Knowledge, love and obedience of God needs to be planted in our children and grandchildren, where it can take root and grow into something magnificent and life-transforming.  The Kingdom of God needs to be nurtured in them and grown into maturity as they grow.  This is not only true for our young people, but it is true for all whom we invite into the Church to take this journey of Faith with us.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus talks about this: “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, Jesus says, or what parable shall we use for it?  31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

“The Kingdom of God is like” is Jesus’ favorite way of introducing his parables.  In this parable, He says that the Kingdom of God is like the tiniest of beginnings which grows into something glorious and great.  The Kingdom of God, when it takes root, comes to dominate and define our lives.  It makes us different.  We leave behind this world that wants to define us, and we become a new creation in Christ.  As Paul writes in our Epistle reading from 2 Corinthians this morning, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

Paul is writing to the church in Corinth.  Corinth was a seaport with all sorts of people with all sorts of moral understandings of life, much like our world today.  In many ways the Corinthian Christians had not shed their old nature.  The church was compromised by the culture around them. But the Apostle Paul reminds them that they are different. They have a different purpose and destination in life.  In Christ, they are a new creation.

Like all of us, my grandson lives in a modern-day Corinth with all sorts of moral and ethical understandings of life.  Who is going to reveal the Kingdom of God to him?  Who is going to share the Kingdom of God with your children and grandchildren?  Who is going to reveal to them the great truths that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has for them?  How are they going to find their Thin Places and God Benches in life?  If not through you and the other Christians in their lives, then through whom?  

Friday, June 8, 2018

Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

I have been attending a conference at Trinity Seminary, Ambridge PA this past week.  It is always good to spend time at Trinity, albeit short, immersed in learning something more about the Kingdom of God.  The fellowship and rhythm of seminary worship is spiritually refreshing.

The topic this year is Christian Anthropology.  Anthropology is the study of humankind, just as theology is the study of God.  Christian Anthropology is combining two by studying the relationship of humankind to our Creator.   One of my favorite psalms, Psalm 139, has been in my mind as we explored this topic this week:

13For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

Much of our study has been on “human dignity.”  Secular culture and Christians alike champion this idea of human dignity, but we often end up in different places on how to live it out.  The reason is that Christians think more in terms of the sanctity of life, not just its dignity.  Life is sacred and it is God who decides how that is to be lived out.  It also means that it is God who assigns worth to all human life, and He does it equally, from the yet to be born, to the disabled, to the mentally challenged, to those experiencing the end of their earthly life.  We humans, therefore, do not get to decide who is less human or of less value.

Christian Anthropology finds its roots in the fact that we are created in the image of God (Imago Dei). Gen 1:27-28 says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.   And God blessed them…”   that image, however, is distorted and tarnished by the Fall (Gen. 3), but Jesus comes as the New Adam to restore the Imago Dei in us all by inviting us, by the power of His Holy Spirit in us, to take on His likeness, and Jesus is the perfect image of the Father.  Paul writes in Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

To God be the Glory, Father Rob

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Sermon-Feast of Pentecost, May 20, 2018- “Life in the Power of the Holy Spirit”

    The Church has seven major commemorations throughout the church year that celebrate God and what He has done for us in Christ.  These seven celebrations have through the centuries been called Principal Feast Days. Today is one of them- The Feast of Pentecost.   
    What is it that we are celebrating today?  Pentecost Sunday celebrates the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Church; that is, the Spirit of God coming to indwell all who belong to Him in Christ.  We easily think of God as the transcendent and the all-powerful Creator of the Universe, but today we celebrate the fact that God is also close up, personal, immanent, and intimate.  The fact that God is simultaneously both transcendent and immanent is a great and wondrous attribute of our Triune God. Pentecost is God’s Holy Spirit coming to empower us to take on the likeness of Christ in this life and prepare us for perfect union with Him in the next.  This is important and indispensable in God’s Plan of Salvation and why we rank Pentecost up there with such celebrations as Easter and Christmas. 
    So, what is God’s Plan of Salvation?  God’s plan is to reconcile and restore us to Himself.  We see God putting this plan for redeeming us immediately into play when sin, death, and the devil first enter His Creation in Genesis 3.  God tells Adam that “Satan will strike your heel” but “you will crush his head.”  In other words, God says we will surely suffer the consequences of sin, evil and separation from Him in this now broken and hurting world, but we will, in the end, have victory over Satan and freedom from the power that sin has over our lives. 
    And power over our lives it surely has!  And this is exactly how Pentecost fits in.  You and I know ourselves all too well to believe that we can, on our own, resist, even much less have victory over, the darkness and evil of this world.   What folly it would be for us to take on the world, the flesh and the devil on your own strength?  The whole of Old Testament is a testimony to this.  We know our interior selves where sin, self-absorption, and willful disobedience to God’s Law have taken root.  As Paul laments in Romans 7, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  We know the answer; it is the power of God working in us that is our strength and salvation- The Blessed Holy Spirit! 
     The truth is that without Christ and His indwelling Spirit, we will all perish.  There is no exception to this in this room today.  Christ is the source of our salvation, and His Holy Spirit is our hope for living into this great gift and finding new, holy and sin-free life in Christ
     As As Ezekiel tells us this morning in his vision of dry bones, “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live.”  Taking on bones, sinews, flesh and skin is not enough.  God wants us to take on His Spirit, the Ruach of God, in Hebrew meaning breath, spirit, or wind.  It is only in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit that we can have life in the full, the abundant life Jesus talks about in John 10.  Ezekiel tells us that God will breathe new life into us.   The Day of Pentecost, is a fulfilment of Ezekiel’s prophecy.
    St. Paul writes an amazing passage about this in the 8th Chapter to his letter to the Romans: 
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  8Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.   9You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. … 13For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.  14For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
    So, where is the Holy Spirit leading you right now, this morning?  Do you want God to breathe new life into your old, dry bones?  Do you want Him to fill you afresh, once again, or maybe for the first time, with His life-giving Spirit?  Then I invite you to pray the following prayer with me, and, as you are led, come forward and either kneel or stand at the altar rail.  I will anoint you with the Oil of Chrism, the Church’s age-old symbol of being anointed with the Holy Spirit, and I will lay hands upon you and pray for you.  
    So, let us pray this prayer together:
O God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, who desires to place boundaries around our lives in goodly places [Psalm 16], breathe your Spirit into us that we may truly live.  By the power of your Holy Spirit working in us, set us apart from the world, make us different.  Sanctify us in body, souls and spirit, such that, when we join you in heaven, you will know us by our likeness to your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen
     May God, through the power of His Holy Spirit, empower you for living, really living. Amen.

                                      Father Rob

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Diocese of the Carolinas- Clergy Retreat and Renewal of Ordination Vows

March 1-2, Cathedral Church of the Apostles, Columbia

The Rt. Reverend Todd Hunter, Retreat Leader

“The Intersection of Gospel and Culture

My take-away from his sharing with us: 

        Regardless of what un-ease we feel with the World and the Culture, we are safe in the Kingdom of God.  This is a truth and a reality to be claimed by all Christians.  As Scripture says, “We are in the world but not of the world.”  But the challenge for the Church remains- How do we build bridges to the Culture in our time.
        Bishop Hunter drew our attention to the fact that Jesus was as comfortable in Levi’s home, a tax collector and sinner, as he was in the Synagogue.  We need to be also.  We are not called to condemn the world but love it, calling the world home to the Kingdom of God.
        There are, however, huge changes in contemporary culture in the other direction. We are called to not resist or hold back from the Culture because of it; we are called to embrace the culture on its terms.  The metaphor Bishop Hunter used was fishing- We catch fish on the fish’s terms- their time of day, location, when they are hungry, etc. 
        We need to be a “non-anxious” presence in the culture, not reeling at the extremes our Culture seems to be taking on, but staying connected, loving people right where they are, fully differentiated (to use the language of Rabbi Friedman and Family Systems Theory), yet fully connected and engaged. 
        Bishop Hunter quoted from Eugene’s Peterson’s biblical paraphrase,The Message, of 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:  “Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever.  I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view.  I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.”

The clergy of our diocese gathered at the Church of the Apostles (note our very own Fr. Theophilus in the left foreground) 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Family Promise Is Returning to Holy Trinity!

    Time is drawing closer for our week for hosting homeless families! We will be hosts during the week of April 22.  Many hands and hearts are needed to ensure that we make our families feel welcomed and loved during that week.  Areas of service include: folks willing to pray before and during the week, workers to set up and break down bedrooms in our Sunday School classrooms, cooks to prepare supper and host for a few hours each evening, couples to spend each night, other hosts for all day Saturday (We’ll set up shifts for that day; sometimes the families have other plans.).  LaToya Hardman, director of Family Promise, will be with us on Wednesday evening, April 4, to refresh our hosting skills.  Watch for sign-up sheets in the fellowship hall to be a part of this excellent local ministry.  God is at work all around us; this is a work we can do!

     We are thankful that we have received a Thrivent Action Team grant to defray some expenses we may incur in preparation for the week.

     Family Promise of Augusta is committed to helping homeless families of the surrounding area to achieve lasting independence by providing safe shelter, meals, cost-free day care, and support services for these families. Family Promise also partners with programs designed to redress the underlying causes of homelessness.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Finding Focus- A Lenten Exploration for Teens and Young Adults

For the Teens and Young Adults of Holy Trinity

“Finding Focus”- A Lenten Exploration

 In this Season of Lent, you are invited to explore a topic relevant to all of us, both young and old- that of finding our Focus in life.  The leader for your journey is Pastor Patrick Darnell.  The journey begins the First Sunday of Lent, February 18, during the Sunday School hour following the 10 am service.  Some of you have friends whom you may want to invite to join us.  They are more than welcome.
Please let Fr. Rob or Pastor Patrick know that you plan to join us.  

Here is the road map Pastor Patrick has given us for the journey:

Week One:  The Meaning of Life:  What is the Focus of Your Life?  In this first week we will look at a very basic truth of Christianity -- that life isn't really all about us.  Finding focus in a cluttered world is difficult.  If we are going to have clarity, then we are going to need something as a starting point that helps us understand everything else.  The secret to finding focus is knowing that it's not about you, True Life centers on God.

Week Two:  The Meaning of Happiness:  What Does It Mean to be Fulfilled?  We live in an instant-gratification world.  It seems that everything these days in "On Demand", from entertainment, to food, to relationships.  Even more incredible is that we can have almost anything we want, and as much of it as we want!  So... why don't we ever feel satisfied?  No matter how much we fill our lives with things that make us happy, seldom do we truly feel fulfilled.  Maybe we are filling our lives with the wrong stuff.

Week Three:  The Meaning of Discipline:  What Kind of Life Are You Creating?  There are a lot of things that have influence in our lives.  Our friends, parents, pop culture, social media, and thousands of other messages are fed to us every day.  The world never ceases telling us who it wants us to be.   But what about you?  Living life to the full requires discipline.  Discipline simply means taking control of your life.  

 Week Four:  The Meaning of Direction:  Where Are You Heading?  Discipline is the fine art of controlling small actions to make a big impact.  It's like an artist carving marble or wood.  Direction is different, it doesn't ask who we are, it asks where we are going.   So, what do you really want to do with your life?  Where are you heading and what are you doing to get there?

Week Five:  The Meaning of Eternity:  Heaven, Hell, Death and Easter   For just a moment, forget all of what you have been told about Heaven and Hell.  We are going to get down to the basics of where we will spend eternity and why.  It might not be what you think.  Hold on tight, because Easter is about to change everything, forever...

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Teen / Young Adult Lenten Program - "Finding Focus"

The Season of Lent is upon us.  This means that Easter, the very pinnacle of the Church Year, is not far behind.  Our Teens and Young Adults are invited to take a journey through this season by exploring together a topic relevant to all of us, both young and old- that of finding our Focus in life.  The leader for of this journey is Pastor Patrick Darnell.  The journey begins Sunday following the 10 am service, February 18, during the Sunday School hour.  Some of our young people may have friends whom they want to invite to join in on this journey. Others may be interested also.  All are welcome. You can sign up by email (, text or phone (803-341-0075)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


        We make judgements and express opinions all the time, and rightfully so, but David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons in their book Unchurched offer us a definition of something that moves beyond that- Judgmentalism.  Judgmentalism is when we point out something wrong in someone else’s life in such a way that it results in condemnation rather than transformation.  Condemnation has a finality to it that closes the door on relationships and leaves no room for God to work through us in other people’s lives.  It is abandoning a person when what they really need is for us to embrace them. 

         Judging and condemning others in this way is therefore the last thing we Christians should want to do.  As followers of Christ, we are to love unconditionally knowing that God’s love is unconditional, and like God, we are to want the best for others and be willing to act to bring it about. 

                                              Father Rob

Holistic and Intentional Christianity

Day by day,
Dear Lord, of thee three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly, Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
                                                Day by Day.
       Words to Hymn 654, Hymnal 1982

         Christian maturity is seeking and living in a holistic (a complete and comprehensive) fellowship with Christ and our fellow Christians.  The hymn above, derived from a prayer composed by the 13th Century English bishop, Richard of Chichester, describes such a faith. The formula for holistic Christianity is simple: 1) intimately and regularly communing with God; 2) intentionally growing in our knowledge and love of God; 3) faithfully serving God by following His Holy Spirit into the world. You can hear these things in the Richard of Chichester’s prayer.

         What is also reflected in his prayer is the critical ingredient of intentionality, which is the day-by-day pursuit of God who first pursued us.  Our secular culture tends to swallow us up and make us something other than holistic and intentional followers of Christ.  When it does, the Enemy is well pleased.                                                       Father Rob