Holy and Gracious Father, you bestow favor upon all creatures, we ask that you bestow victory on your Pittsburgh Pirates and give comfort and consolation to your Chicago Cubs, in Christ's name we pray, Amen.
Let's go Bucs!
September 21, 2015
In the Name of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.
What are Jesus’ disciples supposed to be doing? For us today, the equivalent question is what is Jesus’ church supposed to be doing? It may seem like an obvious question and answer and yet many, perhaps most churches are failing at it.
“What were you discussing on the way?” It seems like an innocent enough question, doesn’t it? What are you talking about? It’s a question we pose all the time. And yet, the question is met with embarrassed silence, the kind of silence that often occurs when someone has been caught doing something they shouldn’t be doing. St. Mark lets us in on the secret. They had argued with one another about who was the greatest.” Or in other words, “who would end up serving whom?”
As he oftentimes does, Jesus does not answer the question. Instead he tells them why the question they are asking is the wrong question. In his response to his disciples Jesus says that those who focus on their own welfare and personal advancement (those who want to be greatest) are going to end up at the bottom of the food chain. Looking at it from the flip side of the coin, Jesus is saying that those who sacrifice their personal wants and ambitions in order to care for the weak, frail, innocent and helpless ones (like children), they will find themselves living in the blessed company of Jesus himself, and in the center of God’s kingdom.
Here again, Jesus tells us that his Father and He have turned the world right side up. Contrary to common opinion, the surest way for Christ’s disciples to fail in God’s kingdom is for them to turn inward and design programs to meet their own preferences, wants and needs. We think that is how one gets ahead but Jesus disagrees. If we continue to design for self-service we will find the Master taking away from us the little we have left and giving it to the one who is actually invested in reaching out to the needy world around him.
There are thousands of dying churches in America and they all share one thing in common. They are all focused in taking no risks, not allowing any resources to be directed towards outwardly focused initiatives, choosing instead to use their few remaining resources to meet the demands of their few remaining members. It is a recipe for certain death.
Now of course, churches are made up of individuals and what is true for the church is true for each of us as well. If our attitude is “me first,” if the dominant question is “How do I get served” then we can expect to find ourselves on the losing end of eternal life.
But of course, in America the question, “How do I get served” is encouraged. We are taught from little on to look out for Number 1. And that means that many of us are behind the spiritual eight ball, and not only that but the churches we attend are also in trouble because if the dominant attitude among church members is “Me First” then that church is dying.
And this is really hard to admit but if “Me First” is the prevailing attitude in a church, then it really needs to die because it has lost the Lord’s Vision! It no longer serves the Master. When “Me first” is the attitude of the church that church has ceased to be the Body of Christ and has become anti-Christ.
You can tell churches where “me first” attitudes prevail:
· They are always sick and ailing
· They focus on the past instead of the future
· They focus on serving insiders instead of meeting the needs of outsiders
· They greedily guard their increasingly limited resources rather than using them to do the Lord’s bidding
To the extent that this “Me First” attitude prevails in our decision making we are being led, like lambs to the slaughter. As Jesus looked down on Jerusalem, and lamented their unwillingness to receive him as Lord, Jesus wept. In Luke 19.43-44 he tells us why he wept. ‘Jerusalem is facing certain destruction because “[they] did not know the time of [their] visitation.”’ That is to say that the religious leaders and the decision makers were completely focused inward and would not accept King Jesus nor would they acknowledge his command to look outward and to share the Kingdom with the whole world.
The destruction that Jesus laments in Luke 19 is what we call God’s wrath. It is the consequence of being found wanting in God’s eyes. It is the worst possible case because we find our eternal hope compromised. It is to be avoided at all cost. How, by making a decision to live your life as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ and accepting his leadership in all the decisions of life.
This is good news. Jesus has not come to condemn his disciples this morning. Rather he has come to bring them to the abundant life. God’s blessing—being found in God’s good favor—living for eternity in our blessed heavenly home is to be desired above all things. We can hope, we can even have some assurance, that we will hear the most blessed words anyone can possibly hear: “Well, done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master.” Matthew 25.23
We can live the rest of our lives in blessed assurance. We really can know that Jesus is ours! It begins with a very simple attitude adjustment from “Me First” to “You First.” In our Anglican spirituality we speak this every time we say the Creed—with conviction. We say the world is God’s not mine. We say we live and thrive because of Jesus Christ. We say that we believe in the right and the ability of God to direct our lives, the Church and the world.
Finding yourself in God’s good favor does not require a seminary degree. These guys with collars on are no better able than you but what many priests have that many lay people do not is a commitment to follow.
You don’t have to pray for hours with flowery language but you do need to be able to talk to God honestly and sincerely.
You don’t have to become a nun or a monk: you don’t have to take vows of poverty, chastity or silence but you do need to take a vow of servitude and determine that Jesus will be the director of your life. And that means Jesus has the right to manage your finances, guide your moral decisions, and teach you how to live the “You First” life. For us in the church, the blessed life hinges on our commitment to being Great Commandment and Great Commission motivated.
· It means we seek God’s will in all things through prayer.
· It means that when we think we have landed on God’s will we act on it, no matter how scary it might seem.
· It means that our talents, time resources and money resources do not exist in order to protect ourselves or provide for ourselves—rather they are tools to complete Christ’s mission in the world.
How many of you remember when you first heard Jesus’ call to follow and you did follow? For many of us that decision came decades ago. And we have been walking in “the way” followers of Jesus for a long time. We have become comfortable in the path we walk. We don’t like the prospect of a new or different path. For those original 12, sometimes they fell into traps set by the enemy, and they were embarrassed to admit that they had fallen into a “Me First” mentality.
Jesus’ question to us this morning is: ‘As we walk in the way, what is it that we are discussing? Are we discussing strategies for taking the Gospel out into the towns and villages? Are we discussing our testimony and how best to present it? Are we taking Jesus’ teaching on prayer and learning to speak to God authentically and often? Are we discussing how we can multiply? How we can bless? How we can receive the weak, the innocent and the frail and serve them? Is that what we are talking about? Or have we fallen into the trap set by the enemy? Have we succumbed to “Me First”…take care of me…please me…serve me…only let people in here that look and act like me... spend what you have left taking care of me?
The statistics are clear. Thousands of churches in America are sick and many, in fact, most will die in the next few years. Will Trinity be one of them? It the dominant voices in the parish are demanding “Me First,” if we are unwilling or incapable of assuming a “You first” mindset we may very well become a statistic. But our story does not have to end as a tragedy. God’s desire, most of your leadership’s desire and my desire is that we will renew the Lord’s Vision; that we will become a Great Commandment and Great Commission Church and we will find new life and new hope as the church heals, grows and fulfills its calling.
There was a time when Trinity was deeply mired in “Me First” attitude but in recent years we have begun to see “You First” initiative take root and succeed. They were hard won victories. Some of us had to really fight for them. There was real resistence...guess from whom? But they succeeded:
· Mustard Seed Café is not only feeding people. It is blessing them with a word from the Lord and enriching their lives with real Christian friendships.
· Thousands of Africans, men, women and children, are benefiting from clean water. Their crop yields are better and their herds are protected against drought because of the Kajire Well Project.
· Intercessors are praying for others at every Sunday Service.
· Financial Peace University is teaching people to live debt free and to become responsible stewards of God’s riches.
· We have launched three successful home groups that are leading everyone who participates closer to Christ.
· But what’s next? Where is Christ calling? Where is the Spirit leading? That must always be the question for God’s church.
Jesus teaches his disciples to give their lives for the benefit of others. Eventually they would understand but it would not be until after Jesus died and rose again for them. Even then they would not really get it until the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit would come in power and transform them. Jesus told his disciples to stay together and pray. I think we need to pray. Pray that the Holy Spirit will move in this Church, in each of our hearts and that we will be transformed.
Will you pray with me?
· That the “Me First” voice in each of us would hear God’s word and be convicted and fall on your mercy.
· Holy Spirit will bring healing, restoration and transformation
· Trinity Church becomes a wholly committed Great Commandment and Commission church
· Time, talent and treasure wholly committed to healing the broken and saving the lost
· That God would have mercy on us in our weakness, build us up in strength and infuse us with his Holy Spirit power and glory so that we might become light and salt to the world
· That God would break down the barriers that prevent us and would use us to reach thousands
Posted by Fr Scott on 9/21/2015 01:57:00 PM
June 23, 2015
from the Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts
Posted by Fr Scott on 6/23/2015 01:58:00 PM
Posted by Fr Scott on 6/23/2015 01:40:00 PM
June 22, 2015
I am posting the below information so that our Congregation has some background information on the Supreme Court ruling on redefining marriage when it comes. The implications for us remain to be seen. Over time we will need to navigate the consequences as our leadership and membership deem appropriate. --Scott+
Background on the Supreme Court Marriage Cases
Why is the Supreme Court presently considering marriage cases?
After the Court's 2013 decision in U.S. v. Windsor striking down the federal definition of marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act, many state marriage laws were challenged in federal courts. Mostly as a consequence of judicial action - federal and state - marriage has effectively been redefined in 37 states and the District of Columbia. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District Circuit, however, upheld the marriage laws in the four states in that court's jurisdiction - Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. In January, the Supreme Court granted petitions to review the Sixth Circuit decision.
What are the questions before the Supreme Court?
1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?
What are the consequences in each scenario?
If the Court answers in the negative on both questions, states will be allowed to define and recognize marriages as the union between one man and one woman.
If the Court answers the first question in the affirmative, then marriage will be constitutionally redefined throughout the country, requiring same-sex "marriage" everywhere.
Even if the court were to answer no on the first question but yes on the second, the net effect would be the same - persons could simply travel to states that license same-sex "marriages" and their home state would be required to recognize them as "married" there.
Those who continue to advocate the true definition of marriage (a union between one man and one woman) will be viewed as proponents of discrimination and will be increasingly marginalized in law and society at large.
When is a decision expected?
The Court heard oral arguments on April 28. A ruling is expected by the end of June.
What is our Church's position on the Marriage Cases?
The ACNA College of Bishops will meet in the next couple of weeks. This will certainly be on their agenda. It is safe to say that the ACNA will continue to support the right of states to maintain and recognize the meaning of marriage in law as the union of one man and one woman. Leadership of the parish will respond accordingly.
(adapted from the US College of Catholic Bishops)
Posted by Fr Scott on 6/22/2015 03:05:00 PM
December 9, 2013
by Fr Scott Homer
The prophet defined:
In the Bible, the prophet is a spokesperson for God. He is named “prophet” because he speaks prophecy—that is the Word of God. The prophet does not speak his own message. He speaks the message God gave him to speak. So oftentimes the prophet begins to speak by saying, “Thus says the Lord.” And attributing the message to God carries down to our own day. Today preachers still begin homilies with “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Done well, and in accordance with God’s design the preacher serves as prophet. He speaks the Word of God, and not his own because only the Word of God has the power to transform lives and save souls. Of course, the message must be heard and the hearer must act on it.
When God’s word—let’s call it the prophetic word—when the prophetic word is heard and acted upon God’s people find themselves enjoying God’s blessings but the blessing is always related to a positive response to the call.
The prophetic message has three components:
1. A warning is issued
a. John warns the crowd: “You vipers, who warned you of the wrath to come.”
2. Action is called for
a. John calls them to action: “Produce fruit worthy of repentance.”
3. Blessing is promised
a. John promises a future blessing: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
But let’s look at how this works “on the ground” as they say.
The Illustration: Mount Pinatubo, the Philippines, June 15. 1991
· 30,000 people lived on the side of an active volcano, although most did not know it.
· The volcano had not erupted for 500 years and no living soul thought it would erupt during their lifetime.
· Scientists started to see disturbing signs that the volcano would soon erupt
· Warnings were issued: In April of 1991 they began to warn the people living in the danger zone that the volcano was deadly dangerous
· The people were called to action: The people were told that they would have to evacuate their homes and set up new homes in a strange place
· The Promise of Blessing was made: They were promised that if they evacuated that they would escape the terrible disaster the volcanic eruption would cause and they would be able to continue with happy and productive lives.
· On June 15th, 1991 Mount Pinatubo erupted—exploded really—spewing rock and ash across a huge expanse of countryside. The eruption occurred during a tropical storm and the ash combined with the rain and the skies rained down black mud that crushed homes and destroyed livestock, and killed anyone who had not heeded the warning nor taken the action to flee.
· But for tens of thousands, the warning had been heard and despite all the upheaval it meant for their lives, they packed up what they could and they evacuated to a new home.
God’s prophets serve the same function as those scientists and government workers performed in the lives of the people living on the side of Mt. Pinatubo. The prophet warns us that a disaster is on our horizon. The prophet calls each of us to take action by abandoning our old lives and by getting right with God. He calls us to repent—that’s just another word for “turn around,” or “change direction.” The prophet says, ‘the ground you walk on may seem safe enough but underneath it is molten lava. It will not support you any longer. A disaster is coming. So, take action, stop following your own ways and trusting in your own strength. Turn away from your old way of life and turn towards the Lord. Live life his way.‘ Personal power won’t help. You need God power. The Lord is able to fill you with God power (the Holy Spirit). Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps won’t work. The Lord will refine you with holy fire so that you will be pure and holy in his eyes. Through the Lord’s grace and power you will be empowered to survive the disaster. You will know the Lord’s blessing even in the midst of life’s greatest trials. You will know the Lord’s blessing forever. No disaster will be able to pry you out of His hands—none –not even death itself. That is the promise of Jesus’ empty tomb.
I don’t mean to frighten you but it is good to live in the real world, free from delusions and denial. So, I need to tell you (with 100% certainty) a disaster is going to occur in each of your lives. But kids, moms and dads, everybody here listen…don’t be afraid! God sends his prophets to warn us in order to save us, not to cause us fear and worry but to provide us with the way to safety. Tornados happen to some. There are tragic car accidents every day. Some of us will be diagnosed with dread diseases. All of us will face the grave. The warning is given so that we can decide to take action, so that we can join the Lord’s evacuation plan.
God loves you. He does not want you to fall victim, to be overwhelmed and destroyed. He loves you and he wants to save you. He wants to move you out of the danger zone, to relocate your life to the safe place. The Lord’s evacuation plan is simple. In the Philippines people needed to get on board the helicopter and let themselves be carried to safety. We need to get on board with Jesus and allow him to carry us to safety. We need to give him our obedience. We need to acknowledge his ways. We need to confess him as our Lord.
It is really simple to do. It requires only an act of the will, the same sort of willpower that the Philippine person used to get on the helicopter. Determine that the threat is real. (The prophet is telling you the truth!) Acknowledge that the Lord is the only true source of safety. (God is good and he cares about you!) Then turn your life and your will over to Jesus. And when you do that your life is transported to safety…once and for all times. If you are confused about how to do this, if you have questions, please ask a pastor about it. He will help you to take the required action.
It is impossible to calculate the exact number of lives that were saved from Mt. Pinatubo but the number is in the tens of thousands. They were saved because scientists had the courage and determination to warn people, and because they provided an effective exit strategy. But those lives would not have been saved if the people had scoffed, and labeled the workers as “prophets of doom.” Those tens of thousands were saved because they heeded the warning and took action to save themselves. O how I long for the day when all of God’s children will listen to God’s prophets and take action to save themselves from the coming disaster. Amen.
Posted by Fr Scott on 12/09/2013 04:29:00 PM
January 14, 2013
Follow our trip at kajiremission.blogspot.com
Today a small mission team travels to the Kajire village in Southeastern Kenya. The journey will take us across nine time zones and span three days.
We will be visiting individual homes witnessing to Jesus Christ, conducting Bible studies, dedicating the water well we have been drilling, and preaching and teaching.
Please keep us, and the villagers in your prayers.
Posted by Fr Scott on 1/14/2013 08:33:00 AM
November 8, 2012
Published November 08, 2012
The Alabama judge removed from office a decade ago for refusing an order to remove a monument of the 10 Commandments from a state building is returning to the bench.
Roy Moore on Tuesday was elected as the state's next Supreme Court chief justice.
"What can I say," Moore said Tuesday night, according to MyFoxAL.com. "God is great, God is good. It's been a wonderful victory."
Democratic opponent Bob Vance entered the race late after another candidate had to leave the contest over an ethical issue.
Moore previously served as chief justice, but was removed in 2003 after refusing the federal order on the 10 Commandments monument.
He won Tuesday with 52 percent of the vote.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/11/08/alabama-judge-booted-over-10-commandments-monument-returning-to-bench/?cmpid=cmty_other_Alabama_judge_booted_over_10_Commandments_monument_returning_to_bench#ixzz2BecbigMh
Posted by Fr Scott on 11/08/2012 12:45:00 PM
October 31, 2012
Court to review 'neutral principles' standard for church property disputes
ARTICLE | | BY GEORGE CONGER
A three-member writ panel of the Virginia Supreme Court has voted to review the case of the Episcopal Church v. The Falls Church.
On 26 October 2012 the court’s website stated it had “granted” The Falls Church’s petition for appeal of the March 2012 order issued by Virginia Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows granting trusteeship of the property and control of the congregation’s assets to the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia.
On 16 Oct, attorneys for the Northern Virginia congregation were permitted 10 minutes of oral argument before the writ panel, to state why they believed the court should review their case. Under Virginia law, civil cases have no automatic right of appeal. The state’s Supreme Court may accept civil cases for review at its discretion.
The office of the Diocese of Virginia was closed on 29 Oct due to the approach of Hurricane Sandy and unavailable for comment. However, The Falls Church released a statement saying it welcomed the court’s decision.
The church stated that their petition asked the court to “review the entire lower court decision for failing to follow U.S. and Virginia Supreme Court decisions applying ‘neutral principles’ of secular property and contract law to resolve disputes about church property. Our Petition also sought review on several other grounds, including some specific to the Historic Church building, where our deed pre-dates the existence of both the Episcopal Diocese and the entire Episcopal denomination, and to the "non-consecrated" property.”
The Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of one of the issues raised by the congregation. The Falls Church asked that the Supreme Court review the “lower court's decision to override the expressed desires of a substantial majority of our donors that their contributions should not go to the Episcopal denomination or Diocese.”
“Let's all be thanking and praising the Lord for this answer to our prayers. We look forward to presenting our case to the Virginia Supreme Court, but this is just one step in what has obviously been a long process, so please continue to pray for the next steps,” the church statement said.
Posted by Fr Scott on 10/31/2012 01:58:00 PM
July 27, 2012
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1.9)
I write at near mid-year to update you on our financials for the first half of the year:
A word of encouragement: I have recently received the financial reports for Trinity through June. I write you with good news AND with a word of caution. Through the first six months of 2012 income is up nearly fifteen thousand dollars ($14,597). Expenses are down nearly ten thousand dollars ($9613). If those trends continue through the remainder of the year we will have a dramatically improved financial picture. Please thank your vestry and staff for their ongoing efforts to find ways of reducing expenses. Thanks to all of you who have been faithful in giving to the Lord and his purposes.
A word of caution: We are not out of the woods yet. We have a long way to go before our annual income meets or exceeds our annual expenses. Our financial future is still uncertain. You hold the key. We will become financially sound only through continued, conscientious efforts to reduce and control spending AND through your continued and conscientious efforts to give freely and generously to the Church.
A word of exhortation: I sense that a spirit of doubt and fear has crept into our midst and is having a very dangerous and deadly effect on some. It is like poison and we need to purge ourselves of it. Doubt and fear are work of the enemy. We live and thrive through hope, courage, and love. St John tells us that “Perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4.18)
In 1851, in Rochester, PA a group of faithful men and women, our spiritual forefathers and mothers, defied their own doubts and fears, took courage, gathered their strength and invested themselves and their financial resources into a new, risky, church plant called Trinity Church. They had few resources, a tiny congregation, no building and little reason to believe they would succeed. For many years they could not afford their own building. They met in the local Fire Hall. And things did not improve rapidly. For many years the congregation remained small. They struggled, growing at times, shrinking at times, and many must have wondered if their numbers would ever grow into a strong and financially secure church. Your forefathers and mothers kept their faith and courage, despite the discouragements, despite looming possibilities for failure that have always afflicted churches causing some to suffer doubts and fears. They took courage and they invested themselves into this new assembly. They continued to believe that their efforts were pleasing to God. And once they had begun they refused to retreat. That spirit of faith and courage has led the people of Trinity to continuously worship God as a church for 161 years!
For 161 years Trinity Church has been the Anglican presence in Rochester, Bridgeport, Van Port and Beaver. We have prayed together and stayed together all through the Great Civil War, the War with Mexico, WWI, WWII, the conflicts in Korea and Viet Nam, the first and second Gulf Wars and the war in Afghanistan. We have prayed together and stayed together through times of great national crisis: the assassination of presidents Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy, the bleak financial times caused by Black Friday in 1929 and the Mortgage Crisis of 2008, and the terrorist attacks on Pearl Harbor and on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. We have prayed together and stayed together through weak leadership and strong leadership, and through good and bad times alike. We have prayed and stayed together since the days when we rode our horses and buggies to a church lit by candlelight and kerosene lantern. And while many things have changed around us, the faith we have inherited and the Lord that we serve has remained rock solid, unchanging and ever faithful, providing us and our world with true hope, carrying us through all life’s troubles by his grace, teaching us to hope in that grace that overcomes all the uncertainty and all the doubts that plague us.
Trinity Church has survived all the hard times and has met every challenge because we have a culture, passed down to us by our spiritual forefathers and mothers, a culture that refuses to listen to the doubters. We refuse to surrender to our fears. When times get tough we take courage and gather our strength, a strength born out of our relationship with Lord Jesus Christ. We remind ourselves that God is ever faithful. We call out to Him in prayer. He has promised to lead us and guide us, and He always has. He has always provided for us when we honestly sought after Him. We take courage in God’s promises and we give ourselves to his work. As a consequence, the ministry here at Trinity Church has continued on, undaunted and against all odds, for 161 years. God has never failed us, not even in the darkest days. Rick Warren says, “Never doubt in the darkness what God has done in the light.”
We may be in one of those valleys of darkness right now but we have a bright and wonderful future because our God is faithful and our future is assured in Him. The only thing that can possibly cause us to stumble and fall would be to allow our doubts and fears to dominate our decision and cause us to turn away. But we have a cultural heritage. We do not listen to the doubter. We do not allow our fears to rule us. We take courage in our relationship with Jesus Christ, gather our strength, and devote ourselves to God’s mission here at Trinity Church.
“Rejoice always, pray constantly give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (I Thessalonians 5.16—24)
Blessings to you all! Thanks for your continuing faithfulness, strength and courage!
In Christ, Scott+
(Please remember that the expenses of the parish continue to be paid throughout the summer. Would you make sure to remember us in your giving during the summer months?)
Posted by Fr Scott on 7/27/2012 02:02:00 PM
June 10, 2012
In the Name of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Jesus appears in Israel in the role of the new leader, God’s appointed leader, and through his teaching and his miracles and the power of his presence, he is drawing a large following but he is not drawing them to the Temple to worship or to the steps of the Sanhedrin to be instructed by the old establishment. Jesus is leading this large group of people into a completely new way. It is a new way because it cares for the poor and the less fortunate. It is a new way because it attempts to be God honoring not just with lip service, not just with Temple worship, but in the day to day fabric of life. It is a new way that acknowledges God as the Everything to which we owe our everything. It is a new way, with a new leader and it challenges the guardians of the old way.
Now the old guard responds to Jesus in a predictable way. They start a campaign of lies and insinuation and rumor designed to discredit Jesus. It is not all that different than a presidential campaign these days. (It is sad but true that it is easier to win votes away from your opponent by by slandering him than to win votes because of your own worthiness.) Anyway, the old guard begins a campaign of character assassination. They make false accusations, they start malicious gossip and resort to out and out slander. “He is out of his mind,” they whisper. They pull people aside and say, “He is possessed by Beelzebul.” They explain away the miracles, the healings and the casting out of demons by saying, “His power comes from the prince of demons.” It’s all designed to destroy God’s appointed leader, to thwart God’s intended purposes and to reestablish the old guard’s power and authority over the people.
The truth was that Jerusalem, which had once been a shining city on a hill, the place from which God’s people reigned as a mighty kingdom, had fallen into disrepair and ill-repute. The once proud nation of Israel had become a vassal state, under the thumb of Rome. The old guard had failed to maintain the legacy they had received from generations past. They had been unfaithful to God and they failed God’s purposes but they were still grasping onto power with every tool at their disposal. (We ought to mention that holding onto their power was the worst possible scenario for Israel. They were failing and they were trapped in the old way. While they may have wanted to be faithful, they had lost the ability to listen for God’s Word or to see God’s Presence in their midst and they had resorted to huge body of laws and harsh rules thinking they could force their people to be good children of God.) They believed they were right and that God’s beloved Son, this Jesus, was an imposter.
Now this is a very, very important point. If the old guard leadership of Jerusalem succeeds in assassinating Jesus character, if they are successful in discrediting him, if they manage to win the battle for control over Jerusalem, they destroy themselves and they destroy Jerusalem. Jesus is God sent. Jesus has been sent to provide God’s salvation to God’s people and the people are faced with a decision. They may receive God’s gift of forgiveness and grace or they may reject that gift but there is no third option. Choose Jesus or Barabbas, that’s it. Do you remember a couple of weeks ago I said, “There is no gray twilight between good and evil?” It is either one or the other. The same is true of God’s plan of salvation: there is faith and obedience to Jesus or there is a rejection of Jesus and disobedience. Jesus leads to life, the other leads to death and the people of Jerusalem must decide.
And by the way, they do and they choose poorly. When their attempts to discredit Jesus failed, they resorted to more violent means and they killed the Son of glory. That was somewhere around 35-40AD and in 70AD the Romans destroyed the Temple, burnt Jerusalem to the ground and bathed it in blood. The people who chose Barabbas were killed en mass. Those who escaped the sword were scattered around the world and their ancestors would not find their way back to Jerusalem for nearly two thousand years. The Temple which represented God’s presence among his people has never been rebuilt. Of course we know that God does not dwell in buildings. God’s presence among his people is not to be found in any building but in his Son.
Now it is time to do some application here. These stories that we read are not just history lessons or biographical sketches of Jesus. They are teachings. They open up the circumstances of our lives in our day and they inform us about the errors of the past and the hope of the future. And this particular story is particularly applicable to our common lives.
1) We are called to put our faith not in a what but in a WHO. The hope of God’s people is not to be found in buildings, properties or bank accounts. We always act as if it is but this country is full of churches that are empty shells. They have magnificent buildings constructed during the glory days of Christianity. They cost a king’s ransom to build but they are now nearly empty and in disrepair, not for lack of money—many of them have huge endowments. They are failing for lack of caring, lack of purpose, lack of genuine commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ. They got it backwards. They put their trust in trusts, and endowments, and brick and mortar but all of that has proven to be worthless. Genuine hope is found in Jesus not in the Temple.
We are always tempted to believe that we are facing an uncertain future because our buildings are at risk. It’s not true. O, it is true that our future is at risk, but our future is only risky to the extent that we refuse to place our faith in Jesus and refuse to serve our King. If we choose to allow Jesus to speak to us especially when those words are uncomfortable and challenging, if we allow Jesus us to call us into activities that seem too ambitious or too risky, if we place Jesus’ priorities ahead of all other priorities in our lives, then we will know genuine security because we will be living smack dab in the middle of God’s will and God’s purpose for our lives.
2) When we make a decision to be faithful to Jesus, not to the world, not to our stuff, the next problem we face is one of evaluation. How do we know that we are being faithful? We can’t judge based on how easy life is. Lots of faithful people endure hard lives. We can’t know based on material gain. Jesus never suggests that faithfulness will lead to an abundance of things. So how can we know that we have placed our hope in Jesus and are serving him.
There is a way. We can know positionally. Here is what I mean. If you look at the gospel this morning there are several groups of people representing several different spiritual positions. I see three possible positions: Opposition, Ambiguity, and Acceptance:
There are those who are opposed to Jesus. They are accusing Jesus of being a fraud. Some go so far as to say he is evil. They are actively fighting against Jesus, arguing against his teachings, and disputing his miracles. They refuse to value the things that Jesus values or to do the things that Jesus does. And Jesus says, ‘When you set your heart against the Spirit of God you have placed yourself in a unpardonable position. Unless you change your mind and allow the Spirit room to work, you are damned.’
There is a group who are living in ambiguity. They are listening to the opposition. They are considering the possibility that Jesus is a fraud. They are seriously entertaining the possibility that their best interest is to be found somewhere other than with Jesus. It’s no accident that the people representing this position in the gospel are Jesus’ family, the people who should be closest to him, who should have no doubts and who should be “all in.” Notice that they are not in the room with Jesus. They stand outside. They are not heeding his call to come. They are calling Jesus to come to them. They are ‘concerned’ for their son and brother, but their concern is based on bad information and an unwillingness to recognize that their own doubts are at the bottom of their refusal to accept Jesus. Jesus’ family refusing to accept Jesus as Lord is a metaphor for Israel, God’s family, refusing to accept God’s plan of salvation. May I suggest, as gently as I can, that Jesus’ family refusing to accept Jesus wholeheartedly is a metaphor for a so called “church” not accepting Jesus as Lord too.
The third position is Acceptance and it is represented by a third group. These are those who are being healed by Jesus, who are answering his call, who are sitting at his feet, listening to his Words, going out to spread the word, and serving Him and one another unselfishly. These are the ones Jesus is referring to when he says, those who do the will of God are my mother, brother and sister. Jesus says that our relationship to him is not so much a blood relationship as a positional relationship. We become family, we enjoy intimate relationship with him, and we become co-heirs in the Father’s kingdom not as an accident of birth, not because we are genetically linked to the chosen people but by believing in God’s plan of salvation whole-heartedly.
Now I want to put a ribbon around this and tie it up in a bow. There is only one person who can choose what you believe, where you go and what you do. That person is you. WE love to blame others for the messes in our lives but they are not to blame. Most of the time, I am the source of the problems in my life. Most of the time, you are the source of the problems in your life. Each of us chooses and we then harvest the fruit of our choices. This is most especially true in regards to our spiritual lives.
Your position to Jesus is a decision that you choose to make. Many choose to reject Jesus and his teachings. They choose to live by a different set of values and they serve different “Lords,” the Lords of this world. There are certain short term benefits to opposing Jesus but ultimately this decision ends in eternal isolation from God and God’s grace.
Many, many choose to live in an ambiguous relationship to Jesus. In fact, even many church people choose to listen to the doubters, entertain their own doubts and fears, and live outside the room, calling Jesus to come outside, calling to Jesus to honor their doubts. Our gospel this morning is clear. Jesus will not come outside to entertain our doubts no matter what sort of claims we want to make about being his family.
True closeness to Jesus comes through a genuine, and repeated, choice to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. It is a choice that I have to remake every time an opponent of Christ challenges his authority or maligns his goodness. It is a choice I have to make every time the culture demands that I put something ahead of my Lord. It is a choice I have to make every time my selfish interests are prohibiting me from acting in the way that Jesus would have me act. It is necessarily a radical choice. Half a commitment is no commitment at all.
In our gospel reading this morning Jesus faces opposition from those who seek to be in control and in charge, and seek to destroy his influence. Many, including Jesus’ own family are entertaining the criticism and they are seeking to get Jesus to be more moderate, less committed, a little more compromising. They stand apart from him too. But there are those who accept Jesus as the Lord and Savior, who submit to his teaching and who devote themselves to the work of God’s Kingdom and it is these last ones who are intimate family members of the Son of God. Amen.
Posted by Fr Scott on 6/10/2012 09:42:00 AM
June 7, 2012
How about making a commitment to change Your Life?
Join Trinity Church members for The Purpose Driven Life.
You are about to embark on a journey of discovery. Throughout this six-session video-based study taught by Rick Warren you are going to discover the answer to life’s most fundamental question: “What on earth am I here for?”
And here’s a clue to the answer: “It’s not about you…you were created by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense. It is only in God that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance and our destiny. Every other path leads to a dead end.”
…This six-session video-based study will change your life.
Father Scott comments: “I have seen the impact that Purpose Driven Life has had on individuals and churches in a number of places around the country. It is really pretty spectacular! This teaching has the power to transform your life and to bring you blessings you could not have imagined. (Of course you have to commit to it. It only works if you work it.) It also is a powerful tool for pulling communities together. Fully half of the growing, dynamic churches in America have used Purpose Driven Church as the means to spiritual growth and renewal. I hope you will participate fully in this. Your time and effort will be rewarded.”
A Home Group is now being formed:
This summer we are forming a small group to participate in Forty Days of Purpose, a forty day period set aside to reflect on the full answer to the question: “What on earth am I here for?” We will limit group size so that the group can comfortably meet in participant’s homes. We will meet for The meetings will be relaxed gatherings spent in fellowship and worship together, watching and discussing a short video presentation.
1) Participants are asked to make a firm commitment to attend all sessions. If you are interested but know that you must miss a session we will ask you to make arrangements to make up the missed session (there is a way of doing that).
2) There will be a small fee for books and materials…somewhere around $10 per person. (Couples may share the cost if they are able to share the books and materials.)
A sign up will be posted on the bulletin board outside the church office along with further details soon.. Sign up deadline is June 24th so sign up now.
Call the church office for more information: (724) 774-0679
Posted by Fr Scott on 6/07/2012 11:09:00 AM
May 27, 2012
Sermon, Pentecost Sunday 2012 Fr. Scott Homer
In the Name of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Isa 44: “Fear not…my servant…my chosen, for I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground…I will pour my spirit upon your offspring and my blessing on your descendants…they will spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams”
As you drive West out of San Antonio you move into an increasingly desert area, and you cannot help but notice that the trees by the side of the road keep getting shorter and shorter. By the time you get to the town of Uvalde there are no trees, just scrubby bushes and low-lying plant life barely eking out an existence. The problem is…no water. No water, therefore, no trees. Occasionally though you will be surprised by a sudden outcropping of trees rising up from the otherwise barren landscape. And when you see those trees you know immediately that there is a source of water nearby; a spring, or a stream or something supplying those trees with the water they need to exist. Water allows trees to grow strong so that they can reach out and up into the environment around them. Those trees provide shade and coolness that allows all sorts of other plant and animal life to flourish and grow, Trees provide places of rest and refreshment to other desert dwellers struggling in the desert. We call a cooler, wetter place in the desert where the trees grow green and tall and where you will surely find water an “oasis.” In the desert they are few and far between but they provide a vital support for desert life. The oasis provide opportunities for life, for growth and for refreshment.
If we take a historical look at the spiritual climate in America over the last 50 years or so we have to conclude that it has become increasingly arid. It started in 1960s, and as we move forward in time from there we see fewer and fewer healthy churches, more and more unchurched people. In our tradition, Episcopal church attendance dropped to less than half of what it was in the sixties and it continues to plummet. All over the Western world mainstream denominations are experiencing sharp declines t in average Sunday attendance, in per capita giving, and in outreach initiatives. The US Government which used to be sympathetic to Christian causes has become increasingly hostile to Christianity. It is safe to say that the spiritual climate in America today is a “desert” climate and that churches are suffering. Churches are either hunkering down, or closing their doors. The problem is…no presence of the Holy Spirit. There does not seem to be any life in theses churches. Trees need water. Churches need Holy Spirit power. Without the active presence of the Holy Spirit churches turn inwards, they focus more and more of their resources on their own needs—less and less on the mission to the least, the last and lost. And parishes that turn inward on themselves become mean spirited, kind of like the mean girls club in high school, they end up driving newcomers away and those churches eventually just shrivel up and die.
No water, no trees, no oasis. No Holy Spirit, no churches, no spiritual oasis: nowhere for the lost to find new hope; nowhere for the lonely to find companionship; nowhere for the sinful to find forgiveness; nowhere for the weak to be strengthened; nowhere for the damned to find salvation; no room for growth, or life, or hope. And with no oasis, the desert becomes a hostile and deadly place for all of us. America is becoming a dead zone. We need the Holy Spirit and only the Church can bring him.
There is no substitute. Did you notice what God said in the Isaiah passage this morning? “I am the first, and I am the last; besides me there is no god:” No Plan B, no way forward apart from him, no secret formula, no dynamic personality to inspire and transform. There is one God. He was before the beginning, he is in the middle, and he will be after it all comes to an end. No Holy Spirit, no churches, but even more profoundly, no creation, no world, no people, nothing. I ran across an interesting quote from G K Chesterton the other day. He said, “If there is no God there are no atheists.” We need the Holy Spirit active and working in our lives and it is the job of church members, did you hear that? It is the JOB of church members to receive the Holy Spirit power and to redistribute it to the world around them. Like tree’s branches, churches are to reach out and up, to provide rest for the weary, comfort for the afflicted, nourishment for the hungry, to be an oasis to all the weary travelers who must dwell day by day in this spiritual wasteland. And we are only doing our JOB when we are taking the message of Jesus Christ out to people who are not like us, to people who speak a different language than we speak, to people foreign to us. The Holy Spirit gives us power to do our JOBS but we must tap into that power and we must trust in that power and we must be about the work that God has given us to do.
Like trees in the desert, the church must reach upwards to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. That reaching upwards is called Prayer and Supplication. Prayer being the asking for God’s wisdom and God’s gifts. Jesus said, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” We need to ask him for the power of the Spirit and the power to spread the gospel. (I am asking everyone of you to pray this morning for the Holy spirit to come on this community.) Supplication being our willingness to receive those gifts and to exercise the ministry God is calling us to exercise. Supplication also means being submitted to the Holy Spirit’s authority. (I am asking each of you this morning to submit to the power of the Spirit and to engage in the work the Lord has prepared for you.)
Like trees in the desert, the Church must reach outwards. That reaching outwards is called Evangelism and Outreach. Evangelism means telling others about this loving God who has sacrificed everything to save us from the certain death that awaits us in the desert. And outreach means showing them that this God means what he says. He is not just saying, “He saves them.” God is not just blowing smoke. God is actually introducing himself and his power into the lives of broken people and healing them. Through Evangelism—speaking the message of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, and then through Outreach—intervening in people’s lives to restore the good life and renew hope for the future. In this way, God is actually shows himself to be the One who saves. And God does this vital work through his people, people like you and me, who pray for his power and submit to his plan. Those people are God’s Church—the spiritual oasis in this fallen world. God will return and he will restore his creation to its former glory. In the meantime he provides his Holy Spirit power to us, both for our strengthening and comfort, and also so that we may provide strength and comfort to the rest of the desert dwellers: all those who have been unable or unwilling to tap into that Holy Spirit power on their own.
So, here’s the thing about this spiritual oasis—this thing called the effective church. That spiritual oasis does not just point the way to Christ. It becomes Christ. It behaves like Christ. It speaks the truth like Christ. It heals and casts out demons and serves the needy just like Christ. The church becomes a living and breathing example of Christ on the Cross: God providing hope and a future to an otherwise hopeless, dead-end world. Jesus died, not just so that I could live but so that you can live also; not just so that you can live but so that all of them out there can live too…and on this day of Pentecost He gives us the one ingredient necessary for his whole scheme to work: the gift of the Holy Spirit. Empowered by the Holy Spirit we can go forth into the world and we can witness to God’s grace and glory to everyone we meet—not in grand speeches, not in major events but in the small, intimate details of our lives, by helping, serving, caring, hoping and sharing with the people who have not received the Spirit.
“As we pass through the desert valleys we make them springs of refreshment.” When we walk through the desert valleys we do not walk alone, we walk with the Holy Spirit who resides within us. And that means we become streams in the desert—places of access--sources of the Holy Spirit power. We provide moments of truth where people can experience God’s grace and know genuine hope. We provide moments of refreshment and people can once again dream. Brenda showed me this little piece about a hard working monk who lived on the desert road between Jerusalem and Jericho back in the third century.
“There was a monk," (see In the Steps of Jesus, Walker)
So even in the desert, even when there is just one humble servant there, the Cross is never far away.
The author of this book has another observation about the desert. Just after Jesus’ baptism he was driven outwards into a desert place (interesting), a place where he was tempted by the devil. Of course, we know that those temptations failed and Jesus was victorious over evil, right there in the desert the evil one gave up and left. And, in this sense the desert becomes the unexpected place where the great victory is accomplished. This “desert campaign” proves decisive in the war. The desert thereby becomes, paradoxically, not a place of death and fatality, but rather the place of life and seedbed of hope. Jesus goes down deep enough to transform the dry and dusty desert into a place of utmost beauty. And this is something that his followers can treasure when they face their own, smaller but still frightening deserts. For, following Jesus’ lead, [we] may be able to fulfill the picture in Psalm 84.5-6: “Blessed are those whose strength is in the Lord…As they pass through the desert valley, they make it a place of springs.”
Pray with me: “Come Holy Spirit. Fill us with your life-giving power. Grant us wisdom and strength and lead us into the wilderness round about us. Show us how our Lord Jesus would respond to the needs that we see before us. Teach us how to show love and compassion to each and every person we meet. Inspire us to offer a word of encouragement. Strengthen us to give ourselves for the benefit of others, and we pray that with your aide we may become streams of living water in a barren and dusty desert. We want to reach upwards towards you. We want to reach outwards with you. Come Holy Spirit, amen.
Posted by Fr Scott on 5/27/2012 01:35:00 PM