Thursday, September 17, 2020

The General Thanksgiving in the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer

 Rt. Rev. Edward Reynolds

The only possible path to being restored to a right relationship with God is through our faith that Jesus Christ has indeed done it for us.  In terms of our redemption from our fallen and sinful human nature, Christ did for us what we could not possibly do for ourselves.  All that is left is for us to do is receive the gift and be thankful.  

Thankfulness is, therefore, a central tenant of the Christian experience, and this is reflected throughout our Anglican Book of Common Prayer.   A prayer that has been a favorite of mine from my very young years is The General Thanksgiving found in the Daily Office (daily prayers).  This is a prayer composed by the Rt. Rev. Edward Reynolds, then Bishop of Norwich, first included in the BCP in its 1662 revision.  The Puritans in the Church of England at the time had complained that there were not enough prayers of praise and thanksgiving in the Prayer Book.  Here is Bishop Reynold's response:

The General Thanksgiving
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks 
for all your goodness and loving-kindness 
to us and to all whom you have made.  
We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; 
but above all for your immeasurable love 
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; 
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.  
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of 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 our days; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, 
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Being Christian in Today’s Non-Christian Culture

 Originally published in the Sunday bulletin of the Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity, 1st Sunday after the Epiphany, 2019

At the founding of this nation, the dominant moral and ethical framework from which the American society drew its norms, behaviors, and even its laws, was the Protestant Christian Worldview.  Those times are gone.  Multi-cultural Secular Humanism is now the dominant moral/ethical framework.  Some would even say it is the dominant “religion” in America today. 

 There is no reason, however, for pessimism or hand-wringing.  God is in charge.  He is still growing His Church and using her to carry out His purposes.  With the cultural, moral and ethical shift in America comes opportunities for the Church to be what she was commissioned to be by Christ, which is a light in a dark world and the source of “Good News” for a people who desperately need to hear it. 

 Christianity has always flourished as a minority worldview.  At the center of the Christian Faith is the mandate to love people right where they are and to care about both the present and future of those who live and believe differently from us.   Jesus always did!  We do not need to agree with worldviews that are contrary to God’s truths nor “hide our light under a bushel” when it comes affirming the truths of the Kingdom.   Jesus never did!  And our calling is not to be politically correct. Jesus never was! 

 We should not expect Christianity to be easy.  It never has been.  This is very true today because the dominant American culture is not moving in the direction of openness and tolerance of the Christian Worldview; it is moving in the other direction.     

Your thoughts?
Father Rob

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction


Originally published in the Sunday bulletin of the 
Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity, 7th Sunday after the Epiphany, 2019.  

Eugene Peterson’s book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, explores our understanding of the Christian life as a pilgrimage.  The Christian pilgrimage is the Holy Spirit placing our feet on the path that leads to the Father, a journey made possible through the person and work of Christ who has opened the door to heaven for us and the Holy Spirit of Christ who walks the journey with us.  Jesus tells us that He will show us the way; in fact, He tells us that He is the Way; that is, the path back home to the Father.  In John 14:5-6, Thomas says to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?”  Jesus says to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  So central was this reality to the early Christians that they were called "The People of the Way” (Acts 9:2, Acts 24:14). 

Our traditional worship space through the ages has reflected this idea of being a people on the way to the Father.  As we enter the church, the first thing we encounter is the Baptismal Font.  It is here that we are born again by water and the Spirit into the Family of God, dying to the world back outside the door through which we came, and being born anew as children of the Kingdom of God.  The center isle of the nave is our path from the font to the throne room of God, symbolized by the Altar and Cross at the front of the church.  Our journey up the isle is supported by our church family on either side, by the Word of God read and preached from the podium, and the Lord’s Table from which we receive strength and nourishment for the journey.  The Lord’s Table also reminds us that we do indeed have a place at the great banquet feast of the Lamb at the end of our pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage suggest movement.  The Christian pilgrimage is pressing forward with obedience and perseverance into the Christian life, always focused in the same direction.  Paul expresses this in his letters: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12);” and “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).” The author of Hebrews also writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).

Growing in the knowledge, love and service of our Lord is not optional for Christian pilgrims such as ourselvesThe Christian journey is neither easy nor is it at times politically correct, and it always requires a “Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” 

Soli Deo Gloria, Father Rob

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Bitter Fruit of Modernism

If we want to be Christ to our culture, we need to better understand our culture.  Edwin Lutzer in his book, The Church in Babylon, writes about our culture today becoming infected and bitterly altered by Modernism and Secularism.  He outlines three sources of the moral and spiritual disarray and the consequences we are seeing from them.  He calls these consequences “bitter fruit:”  

1.    The bitter fruit of the sexual revolution- From a Christian perspective on sexuality, Western Civilization is in open rebellion.  Like many revolutions, there are consequences and causalities, such as stable biological families, the sacredness of life both born and pre-born, the divine beauty and integrity of life-long, monogamous marital relationships, the virtues of a life sacrificially lived for others rather than for instant self-gratification, and then, finally, loss of God’s moral absolutes in the face of man-made relativism. 

 

2.   The bitter fruit of the technology revolution- Television and instant media have proven to be allies the sexual revolution.  Technology has been a blessing in many ways, but it requires the exercise of Godly virtues to counter its poisonous fruit.  


3.  The bitter fruit of the anti-Christian revolution- Secularism has grown intolerant of the Christian worldview.  Alasdair MacIntyre writes in his book, After Virtue, that Western Civilization has lost its ethical and virtuous moorings.  It is up to the Church to carry the virtues of Godly living through these spiritually dark times and throw a lifeline to those who want to join us. 


To God be the Glory, Father Rob

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Friendship Evangelism


    A comfortable Christianity is one focused our own needs and our own personal relationship with Christ, but a more challenging and often less comfortable Christianity is one focused on someone else’s needs.  Chief among everyone’s needs, whether one know it or not, is to discover and appropriate a saving and healing relationship with God through Christ.  We all know someone for whom this need has not yet been met.   

    A very natural way to be the agent for meeting this need in someone’s life is simply to come alongside that person in mutual love, care and concern, becoming their confidant and soulmate, discovering the often hidden needs in their life, and meeting those needs as the Lord leads and equips you to do so.   A person’s deepest need, however, is not going to be met through friendship with you, but through friendship with God.   

    Someone somewhere along the way dubbed Friendship Evangelism, which is making a friend, being a friend, and introducing your friend to Christ.  (This should sound familiar to all those who have been involved in a "3-Day" Movement in the Church, such as Cursillo.)  Friendship Evangelism is active and personal.   Personal relationships, personal witness, and personal invitations to “Come and See” grow God’s Kingdom.   

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Centrality of Eucharistic Worship in God's Church [posted on facebook 7/28/20]


From the weekly bulletin 3-17-19 of the Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity 
    Throughout the ages, Christ's followers have gathered to hear God speak through Scripture, praise Him in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, offer prayers of petition and thanksgivings, and of course, participate with Him in the Lord’s Supper, obeying Jesus' commandment to "do this in remembrance of me."    

    The liturgy of the Lord’s Supper, however, is more than remembering; it is participating in this event in the present.  As surely as Jesus was present with his disciples 2000 years ago, Jesus is present with us at our celebration of that event.  Jesus promised us that He would be present.  Christ is not only with us the Lord's Supper, He is touching us, nourishing us, blessing us and changing us as we gather around His Table. 

  The liturgy of the Lord’s Supper is known by various names, but in our tradition it is most commonly known as The Holy Eucharist.  Eucharisto is a Greek word meaning Thanksgiving, and if you understand Christianity at all, you know that we indeed have much for which to be.  The word Liturgy from it Greek root means, “Work of the People;" so, in the Eucharist Liturgy we are not observers of worship, we are doers of worship.

    Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper infuses new meaning in another table celebration, the Jewish Passover Meal.  Passover is a remembrance of the deliverance of God’s people from the Angel of death and into a new life of hope and promise.  In the Eucharist we celebrate the reality that Christ is our Passover.  Through Christ, death passes us over and we are given new life in Him.  We eat the broken bread and share the common cup as a sign of our unity in faith and belief under this reality.  The Eucharist is God's family gathered around God’s table, a reality that last forever.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Lure of Liturgical and Sacramental Worship [posted on Facebook 7-26-20]

From Lent 3, 2019  bulletin, the Church of the Holy Trinity, North Augusta, SC
Liturgical/Sacramental worship seems to be very different from that of fellow churches around us who are worshiping in other ways and in other traditions. The fact is, however, liturgical worship is by far the dominant style of Christian worship in the world today, and it has been so throughout the 2000-year history of the Church.  Being situated in the Protestant Bible Belt as we are, this fact often does not seem obvious. 

What has sustained this type of worship over countless generations?  A fellow Presbyter in our diocese, the Rev. Winfield Bevins, has written a book (Ever Ancient, Ever New, Zondervan, 2019) which focuses on the appeal of the liturgical and sacramental, particularly among many young Christians today.  His book is well worth reading, but I will mention a few points he makes that resonate with me: 

·   Liturgical and Sacramental worship is holistic- whole Bible; whole community; whole person- body, mind and spirit.  It is participatory- worship is not just something that is to be observed from the pew or something which someone else is doing for us.

·   It facilitates a sense of mystery and transcendence, and pulls us away from our focus on ourselves toward a focus on God and his presence among us.

·   It meets our desire for historical rootedness.

·   Liturgical worship connects us to the broader church through common worship that dates back to the earliest Christians.

·    Sacramental worship is Biblically faithful.

·   It anchors us in the Apostolic Faith that has been codified in not only the Bible, but in  our historic liturgies.

This is, of course, not to slight other ways of worshiping which obviously feed our spirits and glorify God, but  liturgical/sacramental worship has blessed Christians for almost 2000 year now, and it blesses us today.
    
                                                                                   Father Rob

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Christian Journey into Wholeness [posted to Facebook 7-24-20]

     Years ago Nancy and I participated in a conference titled “Journey into Wholeness in Christ,” led by Conlee and Signa Boutishbaug, two itinerate teachers in the Church.  This conference sensitized me to the reality that my day-by-day walk with Christ is not only a journey into holiness (becoming like Christ) but also a journey into wholeness- being healed in body, mind and spirit.  This journey in holiness and wholeness in all its facets is what the Church calls “Sanctification.”

      Sanctification is exchanging the ungodly influences of the world, the flesh and the devil for the divine influences of Christ and His Holy Spirit.  It is a journey in which the Holy Spirit makes us a totally new creation- not partly holy, not partly healed, but totally healthy, whole and holy.  Sanctification is being healed of both our fallen human nature, as well as the ravages and wounds inflicted on us by life in this fallen world.

      In one of our Max Lucado teachings from a few years back at Holy Trinity, Max drew a magnificent word picture for us of Heaven as a place of wholeness.  I appreciate the way he said it: “You are going to love Heaven because it is where you are at your best.    You are also going to love Heaven because it is where everyone else is at their best.  God impounds all imperfections at the gate.”   

     The wonderful reality for us Christians is that this journey into wholeness begins now.  “It is not just pie in the sky by and by; it is cake on the plate today.”                                                                            
Father Rob

Significance of "The Offertory" in liturgical worship

The Offertory is more than a transition from the “Liturgy of the Word” to the “Liturgy of the Table” in the historic pattern of Christian worship. It is also a time when we do several things of significance:  

First, we offer to God our tithes and offerings in gratitude for what He has given us and to the furthering of His Kingdom here on earth.  

Secondly, we also offer bread and wine representing the first fruits of our labor that the Lord will make into His Body and His Blood.   Offering our “first fruits” to God has roots in Old Testament worship. See Leviticus 23:9-14.

Chiefly, however, we offer and present unto God “ourselves, our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice unto Him.” The Lord does tell us in Scripture that what He desires above all is us.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

What is Your Personal Theology? [posted on Facebook 7-25-20]

        Our personal theology determines how we understand God and understand our relationship with God and His Creation.  As for me, my life is formed around what is known as Apostolic Theology, also known as Orthodox Christian Theology.  Another name for it is Biblical Theology because in historic christianity it is in Scripture that the Lord lays out His plan of salvation for us all.
        The Old Testament reveals that the primary problem in this life is our fractured relationship with God, fractured by our sinfulness and rebellion against His sovereignty as Creator of this world.  The corruption and evil that infects this world also witnesses to our estrangement from God.  This broken relationship with God is reflected in our broken relationships with each other.  The Old Testament is a testimony to our powerlessness to correct this situation.
        The New Testament is God’s revelation that He is, in fact, not powerless to correct this situation.  God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and He does it in Christ.  God loves us enough to step into Creation in the person of Jesus to become for us “the Way, the Truth and the Life;” that is, the way back to the Father, the truth about Himself and Creation, and the source of a new and redeemed life with Him.  No other theology, no other worldview, and no other religion submits to the fact that we can contribute nothing to our salvation except faith and trust in what God can do for us.  
Father Rob

Why do we "Pass the Peace" in our Sunday worship?


1 Peter 5:14

Greet one another with a kiss of love.  Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

 Matthew 5:23-24

"If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go, first be reconciled to your brother or sister, 
and then come and offer your gift."

 Passing the Peace is the enacting of these verses and a liturgical celebration of the true reconciliation with one another that is available only through God in Christ.  The Lord exhorts us to be reconciled, not only with Him (Confession and Absolution), but also with one another (Passing the Peace), before we approach the Lord’s Table.
Fr. Rob

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

What Does a Healthy Church Look Like?

·         Taking conflicts and differences head on.

·         A culture of giving and sharing.

·         Spiritual growth and renewal as the norm.

·         Knowing and living the church as countercultural.

·         Lay people having a sense of partnership with the clergy in advancing 
       the mission of the church.

·         Freeing the clergy to do what they have been called to do.

·         Clearly defined priorities.

·         More mature Christians becoming spiritual mentors to those new to the Faith.

·         A sense of urgency in confronting the world, the flesh and the devil (There are people dying out there!).

·         Not ingrown but focused on outreach and evangelism.

·         Seeing the Christian life as a great adventure.

·         A rich, balanced and holistic spirituality of worship, spiritual growth, Christian service, and evangelism.

·         A commitment to honoring God on the Lord’s Day.
       My compliments and apologies to the people from whom I originally borrowed much of this list, the sources which are now lost to me.

Growing up in Christ and Your Growing Edges

What it looks like to “Grow up in Christ” and be part of a mature Christian Fellowship

·   Joy                                  John 5:11

·   Peace                              Philippians 4:6-7

·   Faithfulness to God         Proverbs 3:3-4

·   Self Control                    1 Thess 5:6

·   Love                               1 John 4:10-12

·   Patience                          Proverbs 14:29

·   Kindness/Goodness         1 Thess 5:15

·   Gentleness                      Philippians 4:5

·   Compassion                    Psalm 82:3-4

·   Generosity                      1 Tim 6:18

·   Humility                         Philippians 2:3-4

·   Hope                               Hebrews 6:17-20
Where are your growing edges?

Two Natures of Christ- Divine and Human- Is this important? [posted on Facebook 7-23-20]


All us Christians need a functional knowledge of the great doctrinal truths revealed to us in Scripture.  One such doctrine central to the Christian Faith is The Two Natures of Christ.  The huge importance of this belief was the topic of a book I read years ago titled the Cruelty of Heresy, by The Rt. Rev. Dr. C. Fitzsimons Allison.  Bp. Allison highlighted the dangers of veering off course by denying or minimizing either the divinity of Christ or the humanity of Christ.  The Church understood this and addressed it in one of the early councils of the Church, The Council of Chalcedon, in 451 A.D.   Here is an excerpt from the proceedings of that great church council:
Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance (homoousios) with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer (Theotokos); one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.     Father Rob

Your Journey into Wholeness and Holiness [posted on Facebook 7-22-20]


    Being in Christ changes everything about life.  It redeems us, makes us a new creation and brings us into an indelible relationship with the Most-High God.  It gives us a new identity and new behaviors.  It makes us part of a fellowship of caring, loving Christians, and citizens of heaven where we are eternally part of the Communion of Saints.  Being in Christ gives a vision of what this life is really all about.  It blesses us with purpose, direction and a God-given mission.  In Christ and through His Holy Spirit, we are placed on a path toward health and wholeness in body, mind and spirit. 

     Hopefully this describes your spiritual pilgrimage, but it does seem that we easily get stuck in our own worldliness and succumb to Satan as he seeks to thwart our journey into holiness and wholeness.  No place is this truer than in our propensity to cling to the emotional and spiritual wounds which this cruel world has inflicted upon us.  Our wounded-ness manifest itself in such things as depression, spirit of rejection, un-forgiveness, bitterness, anger, self-centeredness, guilt… you name it.  These wounds can be decades old, even from our childhood; yet, they can haunt us to our grave.  

     Wherever you are stuck on your journey into wholeness and holiness, know that our Triune God desires a healing for you.   Father Rob

Knowing the Holy Spirit



The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity.  He is at work in the world, is intimately involved in the life of the Church, and indwells the individual believer (1Corinthains 6:19).   The Holy Spirit sanctifies (Gal 5:22-23), empowers and equips (Ephesians 4:11, 1Corithieans 12:4-11, Romans 12:6-8, 1Peter 4:11).  We encounter the Holy Spirit in many ways in life, even in times when we are not aware.  It is the Holy Spirit who nudges us into faith and belief, and then takes us far beyond.  Baptism is the Sacrament of the Holy Spirit setting our feet upon the path that leads eternally to the throne room of God.   We know it is truly the Holy Spirit speaking and acting when it is in accordance with Scripture.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Sermon for Pentecost 5- 4th of July Weekend, 2020


  Comfortable Words for Uncomfortable Times

The Readings for the 5th Sunday of Pentecost

Zechariah 9:9-12  Psalm 145:1-13   Romans 7:21-8:6     Matthew 11:25-30



Preface

It’s an honor and a joy to be invited to preach once again here at Holy Trinity.  I don’t recall our worship space being quite so expansive, however.  It’s not quite as nice as being in our beautiful church, but it is pleasant being out here in the open air like this.  In colonial times, when this region was all wooded frontier, itinerate preachers would come through preaching where there were otherwise few preachers.  One of the most famous was George Whitefield who had a great influence of this area and all colonial America up and down the eastern seaboard.  He was an Anglican clergyman with a booming voice, ready-made for open-air preaching.  It was said that you could hear him 5 miles away when he was preaching.  That sounds like and exaggeration, but in any case, Whitefield has no competition from me.



The Readings

In today’s reading from the Prophet Zechariah, he says the King is coming and He will release the captives and restore hope.



In our Romans reading today, St. Paul reminds us that a life submitted to the Spirit of God is true life – and the Spirit brings that elusive quality to our lives known as peace.  We Americans do indeed yearn for peace in these less-than-peaceful times in which we live.



And finally, in our Gospel reading today, Jesus says that if you are tired… worn out… burned out… weighed down- come to Him and find rest.  What a great invitation.

These are comforting words for these less than comfortable times.  Carl Marx’s in his famous charge against Christianity declares that “Religion is opium for the masses.”  What if instead Marx had said “Religion is a comfort for the masses?”  That would not have achieved his intended effect, but it would have been more accurate.  Marx, of course is looking at Christianity from the outside and cannot speak with any real sense of knowing, reminding us of what St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”  Marx wants to suggest that the promises of our Scripture readings today are an illusion, not real; however, for us who are “in Christ,” these words are the power of God for living in this broken and crazy world. 



Cranmer’s Comfortable Words

In the late medieval period of Western history, Christianity had morphed into a religion that largely did not offer comfort.  Late medieval piety was focused on earning your way to heaven, rather than looking to the power of God to save us, as we were just saying.  Our fallen human nature thoroughly makes earning our own way back to God an impossibility, and the Old Testament is a witness to this.  For the medieval Christian, then, what they knew was only fear, anxiety and hopelessness, all because the love of God and our hope to be found in Christ had become hidden from them.

To this reality, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the head of the Church in England author of our Book of Common Prayer included in our Eucharistic Liturgy what is known as “Comfortable Words.”  They are thankfully still in our Prayer Book to this day.   Cranmer’s “Comfortable Words” are simply four Scripture passages that go to the true heart of the Gospel.   He presents them to the people such that they could not possibly miss the comfort and power that can be found in their union with Christ.  The first of these four passage is from our Gospel reading for today- listen to Jesus’ words again, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  What a promise!  What a comfort! 

Cranmer chose three other passages to be included in his “Comfortable Words.”  Father Theo will be reading those to us later in this service.  I hope they are a comfort to you.  As we are repeatedly reminded of in the psalms, we are to take comfort and shelter under the shadow of God’s wing.  I love that image.  God’s comfort is a comfort that is eternal. 

Seeking Comfort in Our Time

On this 4th of July weekend, we find ourselves focused as a nation on our centuries-old struggle against our own fragilities and fallenness that have kept us from making the ideals of our Founders a reality for all.  What we really struggle against, however, is to be found in the dark recesses of the human heart, and to heal the human heart, we need God.

Just about all our Founding Fathers were religious men, and many expressed in their writings and speeches the sense that this great enterprise we call the United States needs God, and that this nation is made possible only because we are under the providential care and guiding hand of God, under the shadow of the wings of the Almighty, to use the psalmists’ imagery.  Two quotes from George Washington speak to this. (Washington was, by the way, for many years on the vestry of the Anglican Church in Alexandria, just to let Holy Trinity’s vestry know they follow in good footsteps). He wrote, “Of all the habits and dispositions which lead to political prosperity,  religion and morality are indispensable supports.” He was also quoted, "The propitious smiles of heaven can never be expected on a nation which disregards the eternal rules of order which heaven itself has ordained.”  Thank you, George Washington!   

On this 4th of July, it is right, therefore, to celebrate God’s providence and blessing upon this nation.  We have been blessed over the centuries to be a beacon of freedom and opportunity for millions who have come to be part of this great American enterprise, the most recent among us here at Holy Trinity being our beloved Iwuji family who became American citizens just this past year.  Congratulations to them once again.  The ideals and Godly wisdom of our founders has resulted in a nation of phenomenal success and security for the vast majority of its citizens.  Our nation has created a rising standard of living for its people and been blessed with the ability to export food, technology and the economic opportunity that democracy and capitalism bring.   According to World Bank, we have contributed to reducing world poverty by half over the last number of decades.  This is our day to celebrate and give thanks for this.  This is a phenomenal statistic, although it is strangely not talked about, presumably because there is yet so much work yet to be done against world poverty.  God blessed this nation with the will and the ability to defeat the institution of slavery in this country, take on fascism in two world wars, and to face down the godlessness of Marxism in our day, thus securing the economic and personal freedom for countless numbers of our fellow human beings here and around the world.  Not forgetting that we are a work in progress, this is nonetheless our day to count our blessings.

On this 4th of July weekend, we should pray for two things: first, that  God’s hand of blessing continue to rest upon this great nation; and secondly, that God continue His good work of healing of our people and our society.  Our 4th of July celebration should also be a time of repentance, not only for our sins as a nation, but also for something that overshadows our whole future- that we as a culture in these modern times have actively and perilously sought to remove ourselves from under the shadow of God’s wing.   

Conclusion

So, this morning, Jesus invites us to come to Him and find rest for our weary souls.  I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a bit weary.  It makes me appreciate the fact that Father Ross is using the Kenyan benediction in our worship these days: “All the devil’s works we send to the cross of Christ.  All our hopes we set on the risen Christ.”    

Where do you turn for comfort?  Where do you go for answers to this crazy, mixed-up world?   The answer to this here at Holy Trinity is what it always has been is–Jesus!  28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, He says, 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.”   In these less than comfortable times, we should take comfort that God is still in charge. 

Let me close by circling back to my opening reflections on George Whitefield.  His message was a simple one of “conversion.”  Conversion is submitting to the regenerating, transforming and comforting power of God in our lives.  Whitefield ushered in a movement known as the Great Awakening.  On this 4th of July, we should all pray for another Great Awakening.

Prayer

Let us pray:  Lord, we thank you for the great blessings you have bestowed on this nation and on the world through this nation.  Thank you for walking with us to bring comfort and peace amid our struggles.  Receive our repentance.  Heal our land.  Push back the darkness in our hearts.  Remove not your guiding hand from us but awaken us afresh with your Holy Spirit.  Place us back under the shadow of your wing and bless this nation. We pray these things in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.
The Reverend Rob Hartley, July 5, 2020