December 30, 2011

The Queen of England's Christmas Message, 2011

One of the clearest statements of the Christian faith I have ever heard from a world leader.  Please take the time to listen to it.  Happy Christmas!

December 27, 2011

Maybe the Best Quote of the Season

"Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice."

-- Dave Barry

Tim Keller--Year End Generosity

The Bible says that God has poured out his mercy and Holy Spirit generously through Jesus Christ so we can be justified by grace (Titus 3:6). Why is mercy and forgiveness described in terms of ‘generosity’? Because God is under no obligation to give us any good gift. In fact, our sin has forfeited any favor or blessing we might have had. Yet, instead of giving us the punishment we deserve, he took that himself and gave us the riches of mercy and grace. He forgave, he was generous with us sinners.

In the book of James there is another way that God is said to be generous. The author urges his readers to become spiritually mature and wise, and if they lack this, they should ask God, “Who gives generously to all without finding fault.” (James 1:5) Here God is generous not in forgiveness but in ministry. He builds people up and shares his wisdom with others, and he is not stingy with his service, only giving to ‘deserving’ people. No, he ministers to others “without finding fault.” 

Generosity, then, is basically a matter of the spirit....

See full article:

RADICAL: taking back your faith from the American Dream

New book study begins Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012 at 7:30PM in the parish hall (Nine sessions)

I want to urge you to join me in studying this very special book!  If you only attend one study this year, let it be this one.  I read this book on vacation last summer and it has had a profound effect on how I am thinking about my life in America and my life in Christ.   You may not agree with everything this book says (I don't) but you will walk away with a much clearer understanding of your faith and God’s purpose for your life. 

The Book is entitled Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream .  The study guide and book cost $15.00 for each participant.  If you have the book, the study guide costs $5.00

Please sign up for the study by calling the church office at 724-774-0679, or by emailing us at, or by signing up on the bulletin board outside the parish office.

I hope you will call a friend in the parish and ask them to join you and me in this important study.

Fr. Scott  

Prayer for the Feast of St John

Merciful Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church, that we, being illumined by the teaching of thine apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that we may at length attain to the fullness of life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. 

Feast of St John, Apostle and Evangelist

December 26, 2011

Word Origins: Holiday

The word holiday derived from the notion of "Holy Day", and gradually evolved to its current form.  The word holiday comes from the Old English word hāligdæg. The word originally referred only to special religious days.

The Feast of Saint Stephen

December 25, 2011

Christmas Day Eucharist: 11:00AM

Please join us for Christmas Day Eucharist at 11AM

Trinity Church
370 Beaver Street
Beaver, PA  15009

December 24, 2011

"Behold, I bring you good news of great joy..."

Visit to the Christmas Crib

“O Divine Redeemer Jesus Christ…I believe thou art the God of infinite majesty, even though I see thee here as a helpless babe.  Humbly I adore and thank thee for having so humbled thyself for my salvation as to will to be born in a stable.  I thank thee for all thou didst wish to suffer for me in Bethlehem, for thy poverty and humility, for thy nakedness, tears, cold and sufferings.

Would that I could show thee that tenderness which thy Virgin Mother had toward thee, and love thee as she loved thee.  Would that I could praise thee with the joy of the angels; that I could kneel before thee with the faith of St. Joseph; the simplicity of the shepherds.  Uniting myself with these first worshippers at the crib, I offer thee the homage of my heart, and I beg that thou wouldest be born spiritually in my soul.  Give me, I pray thee, the virtues of thy blessed Nativity…” 

(Excerpt from “Visit to the Christmas Crib,” St Augustine’s Prayer  Book)

WARNING: Christmas Prep Hazardous to Health

Warning: Christmas Prep May Be Hazardous to Your Spiritual Health:

We invest so much time and energy in purchasing just the right gifts for our loved ones.  We may make the mistake of concluding that the joy of Christmas is to be found underneath the Christmas tree.  We may find transient joy in the gifts we exchange but long after the electronics fail, the toys break, and the clothes shrink, true and lasting joy will be found only in God’s Christmas gift to you: your savior Christ the Lord.

How To Breeze Through Holiday Shopping

Brenda and I had to do some last minute grocery shopping yesterday.  We knew the store would be a mob scene so we decided to try a new strategy.  We decided to be demonstrably happy, joyous and free.  We were right.  The store was jammed with frustrated, lonely, anxiety ridden folks.  So we broke out our widest smiles, joked and played with one another and acted as if we had nothing else to do all day.  Lo and behold, the crowds lifted, the sea of humanity parted and we were able to walk through our shopping experience without muddying up our spirits.  God is good.  Merry Christmas.

December 21, 2011

The Real Problem in Whoville

We all seem to agree that it is a heinous crime for the Grinch to steal Christmas from the Who’s in Whoville.  After all, if there is no gift under the tree or no Christmas feast, little Cindy Lou Who might cry!  So, of course, the story must end with the Grinch’s conversion—not from God hater to God lover, not from secular humanist to Christian, but from stingy miser to extravagant gift-giver.  The Grinch must experience a transformation alright, but the transformation is from agent of material deprivation to agent of economic stimulus.  Bottom line:  when the Grinch is changed, when his heart grows ten sizes that day, Little Cindy Lou Who gets her stuff and everybody lives happily ever after, or do they?
The problem appears when we consider that little Cindy Lou Who is not permitted to hear about the Christ child.  There is no nativity in the center of the Christmas morning revelers, no explanation of the source of the celebration.  The elders in Whoville have agreed to keep the matter of the Christ, and most especially the Cross, secret and private.  Whoville is happy for some ambiguous reason.  The song they sing is not praising God for his work of redemption—just a happy little ditty.
And so, while little Cindy Lou Who is entitled to Christmas gifts and a Christmas dinner, and the momentary happiness they may provide, she is doomed to eternal unhappiness because she is denied a relationship with Jesus Christ.  The life of true purpose, meaning, and hope that relationship with Christ yields is denied her.  The very thing we had hoped to avoid is assured: little Cindy Lou Who cries.  I don’t know about you but it sounds like a bad deal to me.  Better Christmas morning should stink.  Better there should be nothing under the tree, no Christmas dinner, better for the Grinch's heart to grow and for him to become the preacher who returns the gift of the gospel to the children of Whoville!  

December 20, 2011

Would We Recognize the Christ Child?

Would We Recognize the Christ Child If We Saw Him? It might be harder than we think. We might be tempted to look for him in a hospital or perhaps a birthing clinic in some suburb but I do not think we would find him there. We might look for a blond, blue eyed Jesus but I don’t think those attributes would fit the correct profile.

 Jesus would look much more like one of the babies carried on the backs of the women in Kajire, Kenya than like a baby in a stroller at the Beaver Valley Mall. Jesus had dark hair, dark skin and dark eyes. If he was not hungry most of the time he certainly did not get much more than the bare essentials. He grew up in an uneducated, religiously fundamentalist household. The idea that worshipping God was somehow optional would have appalled him and his people. He and his parents lived in tiny houses, like the adobe shacks that house Mexico’s poor. He had little or no discretionary income. He walked everywhere he needed to go. Communications? His ears and his voice. Entertainment? Studying Torah. Medical Care? A few home remedies. Jesus and his family endured a hard life, a short life, and a life of deprivation…nevertheless it was a life devoted to giving thanks to God for the manifold blessings they received.

We will be most likely to find the Christ child when we look in two unlikely places. We will find him living and ministering among the least, the last and the lost. It is his desire to give his life for them. And we will find him anywhere people devote their lives to worshipping the one true God. Jesus is always present among those giving God thanks and praise.

December 14, 2011

Jesus Talks Money

This reminds me of an old expression: “The last thing we place in Jesus’ hands is our checkbook.” Scott+

Mammon: Servant or Master?

According to the Old Testament, if I didn’t tithe, I was stealing from God. (Malachi 3.9) Jesus took it several steps further. He said, “Pick one—only one. You can’t serve both God and Money.” When I first read Jesus’ statement about serving God and Mammon, it seemed simple, almost obvious, but when I thought about it, I realized many of my decisions had been improperly motivated by money. I asked myself, do my actions and motivations revolve around money, or do I use money as a tool to achieve my goals? Do I use IT, or does IT use me? When I have to make a decision, who decides?

(Wealth Conundrum, Ralph Doudera, Signature Editions, 2007)

December 13, 2011

Christians Scared to Death of Death

“A detailed national survey…from 2003 claimed that fully 92 percent of Americans believe in God, 85 percent believe in heaven and 82 percent believe in miracles. But the deeper truth is that such religious belief…brings believers little solace in the face of death. The only priesthood in which people really believe is the medical profession and the purpose of their sacramental drugs and technology is to support longevity, the sole unquestioned good of contemporary Western life. Christianity, in the hands of a Paul, an Augustine or a Luther, is a way of becoming reconciled to the brevity of human life and giving up the desire for wealth, worldly goods, and temporal power…[But many Christians today] are actually leading desperate atheist lives bounded by a desire for longevity and the terror of [death].”

Simon Critchley, The Book of Dead Philosophers (Vintage, 2008)

Don't Drink the Water!

“Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith says the fastest growing religion in America today is neither Christianity, Islam, nor some eastern religion. It is what he calls Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). In MTD, the most important “truth” about God is that he wants us all to be nice, to feel happy, and to be delivered from pain (that’s the therapeutic part). Outside of being available when I need him, God will not interfere much with my life (there’s the deism)…Smith says that MTD is in our culture—including our churches—like fluoride is in our water.”*

Don't drink the water!

*“When God Seems Far Away,” by John Ortberg, Leadership Journal, Fall 2011

December 5, 2011

A Little Bit of Care

By The Rev Scott Homer

Some people wonder why we don’t take care of our own poor first. Why send money and resources half way around the world when we have poor people living in our own communities? Here is the simple answer: America does not have poverty. Compared to the poverty in Africa, Asia and South America, what we call the American poor are actually people, for the most part, enjoying a quality of life superior to the middle class in much of the rest of the world.

According to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the CIA Fact Book average per capita income differs greatly between the United States and much of the Third World. In Kenya, for example, the average person lives on $775 per year. The average American lives on $47,184 per year.

Those numbers mean that if the average American were to receive only one week’s paycheck they would already have more money than the average Kenyan receives for all 52 weeks combined. Imagine getting your first check in January with a note attached that said, “Don’t spend it all in one place. This is it until next January!” How would you survive? What would you do? Those numbers also mean that even our poor, those depending on public assistance, are living far more comfortable existences than their third world counterparts. Remember, an average of $775. Per year means half of the people are trying to survive on less than that and many are dying because they simply can’t live on much less than that.

Even the poorest Americans enjoy clean drinking water, a luxury that 80 percent of people in the world do not have. Even the poorest American receives health care, regular food assistance, education, and housing assistance if he or she seeks it. For much of the world there is virtually no health care, food is scarce even during good times, education is minimal and there is no such thing as housing assistance.

Children suffer the most. Out of a thousand live births only about 7 babies will not survive in America and all but 8 will live to celebrate their 5th birthday. In Kenya, 65 babies will die shortly after being born and 85, nearly one in ten, will not live to be 5 years old. Most of these deaths are the result of poor nutrition, contaminated drinking water, and treatable childhood diseases. That is to say that most of these children could have been saved with a little bit of care.

A little bit of care…that is where we come in.

December 2, 2011

Money Is A Spiritual Matter

This is an excellent article on the theology of giving from Bishop John Geurnsey. Please take the time to read it all. Scott+

The Bible says that our decisions about money and possessions are spiritual decisions; they affect, for good or ill, our relationship with God. The Bible addresses the issue of our finances over 600 times and Jesus talked about money more than anything else except the Kingdom of God. What does Scripture say about money? It can be summarized this way:

1. God is the giver of all that we have. What we possess is not earned, but is a gift from God. In the wilderness before they entered the land of milk and honey and gained riches beyond anything they had known before, the people of Israel heard this warning from Moses, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18). Or as Paul puts it,“What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

2. We are accountable to God for what we do with what He has given to us. We are managers, not owners. Jesus told the story of a master who entrusted three of his servants with his wealth, giving to one five talents [each talent was worth thousands of dollars], to another two talents and to the third one talent. After a time, the master came to settle accounts with them. To two of the servants he said, “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.” But to the third he said, “You wicked and slothful servant…! So take the talent away from him and give it to him who has the ten talents” (Matthew 25:14-30). God will one day call us to account for how we have handled our money.

3. One aspect of being a trustworthy steward is giving. Giving brings us closer to God. Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide for yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a
treasure in heaven that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:32-34).

4. As we give, we are called to tithe, to return to God at least 10% of what He gives us. “All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30). Jesus confirmed the tithe as the standard for Christians when He said, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter [love and justice] without neglecting the former [tithing]” (Luke 11:42).

5. God wants us to give in thankfulness and joy. “What shall I render to the Lord for all his bounty to me?...I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Psalm 116:12, 17). We give not begrudgingly out of guilt or duty or pride. We give thankfully for all that Jesus has done for us.

As a church founded on Scriptural authority, the Anglican Church in North America is committed to living out biblical principles in our daily lives. May the Lord give us the grace to trust Him fully with our finances and become truly biblical followers of Jesus.

In Him,
The Rt. Rev. John A. M. Guernsey
Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic

November 9, 2011

S.C. Bishop and Clergy of the Diocese Meet on “Serious Charges” Made Against Bishop Lawrence

Just wanted you all to know that the persecution is not over nor is it localized in Pittsburgh. Now the TEC is threatening the Bishop of South Carolina. Mark is a godly man. Let's keep him in our prayers. Fr. Scott

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In an atmosphere of prayerful solemnity, the Bishop and Clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina gathered at Saint James Church, James Island, S.C. for more than two hours on Tuesday, October 12. In focus were the “serious charges” that have been made against Bishop Mark Lawrence and the diocese under the new Title IV canons.

Bishop Lawrence began by restating the diocesan vision of “Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age” and then traced the history of the current controversy in The Episcopal Church and the many obstacles they presented to pursuing our diocesan vision. He ended with the two recent diocesan conventions in which the diocese refused to be coerced into the Episcopal Church’s embrace of the new title IV canons which violate both due process and the Episcopal Church’s own constitution. Of further concern with the current allegations is that evidently this process doesn’t allow the accused to know who his accusers are.

Lawyer Alan Runyan then made a presentation based on his best understanding of what canonical process seemed to be being used by those in national leadership. It would appear they are proceeding under the abandonment canon with its fast track. Based on what has happened in other dioceses, a deposition of the bishop would be followed by attacks on diocese and the parishes. The picture painted was an ugly one of expensive litigation, confrontation and acrimony in which all involved significantly lost.

It was stressed that individual clergy, vestry, and parishes needed to be informed about the allegations, the purported process, and the implications at every conceivable level: financial, personal, legal and spiritual. All the clergy were encouraged to share their concerns with the bishop or the ordained members of the diocesan Standing Committee.

Two themes underlay the whole discussion. First, the Episcopal Church is in a constitutional crisis in which its own polity is being radically altered in violation of its history and founding documents, yet with no structural provision for a means of resolution when just such foundational disagreements occur. That such a deep dispute has arisen with one of the Episcopal Church’s founding dioceses only adds to the unfortunate environment into which all have been plunged. The Reverend Jeffrey Miller, past President of the Standing Committee stated during the gathering, “The question is not whether we can stay; it is whether they will let us stay and follow what we believe.”

Second, the deeper fracture is about a departure of the Episcopal Church’s leadership from Christian doctrine. Bishop C. FitzSimons Allison (XII Bishop of South Carolina) rose to express his concern with these theological innovations and to voice support for Lawrence. While these include a changed understanding of sexual ethics and Christian marriage, it goes much further to the matter of Scriptural interpretation and authority and the uniqueness and universality of Jesus Christ. These recent actions mark yet another hindrance to the Diocese of South Carolina’s duty to be faithful to the truth of exactly that gospel and its proclamation to the world.

What Can We Tell About God from His House?

by Scott Homer

I was talking to a woman, down the street, awhile back. She said, “You can tell a lot about a person by the way they maintain their property.” I didn’t much like the comment. It seemed intrusive and judgmental. (I was a little self-conscious about the weeds in the yard) Still, like it or not, I suppose she was right. Clearly, we can tell a lot about a person’s values and about what drives them, by their personal grooming, their choice of wardrobe, the cars they drive, and most especially, by the care and attention they pay to the places where they live. And it got me to thinking about God’s house.

When Israel built the Temple to the Lord they spared no expense. They bought only the the best timbers and the finest cut stone. They hired the most expert craftsmen. They built the most extraordinary building they could possibly afford. The staff was well paid and received places of honor. That tells us that to the Israelites there was nothing more important to them than their God. He was Elohim, all powerful God; Jehovah Rohi; The Shepherd Lord, and he was their Jehovah Jireh; the Lord who provides for his people, the Lord who would assure their health and wellbeing. The early Israelites exalted in an extraordinary, powerful God and it showed in God's House. He deserved their best. He deserved their most ambitious work. Through the house they built Him they made it clear that their God was an awesome God.

The Medieval Cathedral, was and is a spectacular structure. A cathedral often took generations to complete and the architect who designed them often did not live long enough to see his work done. Expert stone carvers spent entire careers doing intricate work on just one part of one cathedral building. The cost was staggering. The technology was state of the art. And the finished products were stunningly beautiful and powerfully evocative testimonies to their majestic and glorious God. To all who have been to the likes of Notre Dame or Salisbury there can be no doubt that these builders worshipped the most extraordinary God.

In 21st century America, what message are we sending about the God we worship? All too often our churches lay in various states of disrepair. Clergy are underpaid. Churches are exhausting savings accounts just to meet ordinary operating expenses. To even the most casual observer it would be obvious that things have changed. We no longer offer our first and most extravagant gifts to a magnificent God. All too often the people worshipping in our churches only offer leftovers and it would not seem that their God is worthy of much attention or care at all. In many cases, a quick survey of the property would lead us to conclude that the God in this place is worthy only of pity, neglect and shame. To the outside observer viewing many of our churches in America, it would appear that God and his house have become a burden, like an indigent sister who we help as little as we can out of a strained sense of obligation.

I suppose we can tell a lot about the God 21st century America worships by looking at His Houses.

October 31, 2011

Poison Toads Kill Dogs

In the Name of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

My dog Gabriel is a good dog. O sure, sometimes he is a little reluctant, but he usually comes around to being obedient pretty quickly. Gabe is a good dog but he does have a couple of issues. Gabriel is driven by two all consuming passions, and when they come into play Gabriel goes from compliant and friendly dog, to the dog from Hades. Confronted with either of his passions, he becomes an uncontrollable beast and at those times, if you asked his owner, I guarantee he would not say Gabe is a good dog then. His first passion is squirrels. When he sees a squirrel and he goes completely berserk. But it is his second passion that I really want to tell you about. It is a bit of a dark family secret, but your family right? Here goes… Gabriel loves poison toads. I don’t think poison toads live up north here. There is a non-poisonous toad and he will go after one of them out of necessity but Gabriel’s real passion is poison toads and where we lived in Houston—it was just teeming with them. They were everywhere. When Gabriel sees a toad he goes instantly and completely insane. He acts spastic. He becomes unresponsive to verbal commands or physical prompts, and before anybody can stop him, he has grabbed this poor forlorn toad in his mouth and wolfed it down—swallowed it in one gulp. (Believe me, it’s not anything you ever want to witness. It’s truly disgusting and yet to Gabe, whole toad is a gourmet treat.)

What I know, that Gabriel doesn’t know, is that poison toads are poison. (Duh, he’s a dog right?) Anyway, every time he eats a toad he becomes violently ill and O my, what a mess. He doesn’t get sick for five or six hours but when he does it is a very, very unpleasant experience for everyone concerned, Gabriel and Brenda and me. He gets so sick that I’m afraid one day he will die. Now, wouldn’t you think that if toad made him that violently ill that he would stop eating them? He hasn’t stopped. In fact, he seems to love them more every time he eats one. Gabriel has a passion for toad. He knows it’s not what his master wants for him. He knows I get unhappy with him every time he lunges at one, but his desire for toad, and the enjoyment he seems to get from eating toad, far exceeds his fear of displeasing me. And he doesn’t understand why I want to deny him his guilty little pleasure. “What’s the big deal anyway?” And as far as the illness and suffering goes? He doesn’t make the connection. He doesn’t get sick right away. It’s only hours after his favorite snack that Gabriel gets sick and by that time he is incapable of tying the illness back to the snack. His master sees the link between toad and sickness but poor Gabriel never does. If he could see the link, if he could see that the very thing he loves is the thing that is killing him, perhaps he would reach out for help. Maybe he would see the value of the collar around his neck maybe he would respond more positively to his master’s tug on his leash. Perhaps he would see that the master’s desire is not to deny him pleasure but to save his life. But as it is, Gabe’s passion for toads is killing him and he doesn’t even know it.

Now I believe that dogs and people are different, that dogs are beasts with an extremely limited ability to reason, and that people are highly intelligent creatures gifted with the ability to abstract reason. I really do believe that but I am also a student of human behavior and I have to be honest. I see people living the same sort of distorted life, repeating the same sorts of self-destructive behaviors as Gabe. And if I had to be really honest, I might admit that I repeat self-destructive behaviors in the same way as that dog of mine. What’s up with that? Why do we keep repeating the same mistakes and the same anti-social behaviors that make us sick? Our Master knows that these things cause us to become sick. He knows that they will eventually kill us. But we don’t seem capable of putting two and two together. What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same things over and over again, expecting it will turn out differently this time? Somehow we have got to make the connection if we ever hope to break the cycle. We have to see the link between our personal, selfish, sinful behavior and the pain, suffering and death in our world. We are not exclusively to blame of course. Everybody on the planet contributes, but even if they didn’t our own sins would be sufficient to destroy us and those around us. Until we get humble and admit that connection, we are destined to keep eating poison toads, wondering why God is not rescuing us from our pain and sickness and why God keeps trying to deny us our guilty little pleasures. (If people are smarter than dogs then why do we believe in victimless crimes? Or in morally neutral behaviors?)

God made us smarter than dogs but we don’t always act that way. And that is why so much space in the Bible has been devoted to stories about sin and judgment, by the negative illustrations, and by the constant warnings of the wrath to come. Sin inevitably leads to sickness and death. And people sin and don’t see it’s devastating effect. That is the heart of the human condition. And a God who names himself “Compassion and Mercy” cannot leave that condition unaddressed. God has got to work on our hearts. He has got to call us out. He has got to show us the real cause of our sickness. I mean, when I am struggling to pull Gabriel away from a toad I am not doing it to ruin his fun. I am trying to save him from his own ignorance. When God sends one prophet after another with the message that we will be punished for sin, when he convicts us of our personal failures, when he refuses to let us skate, he is trying to save our lives by humbling us in order that we might see the truth. Jesus tells us the truth will set us free.

Over the next four weeks our readings on Sunday morning are going to be tough readings—they always are this time of year. We will hear the words of Jesus and the prophets telling us that God’s wrath is coming. The gist of the thing is this: ‘You haven’t stopped sinning and your chances to stop are just about used up. Once time is up you are going to suffer, not for a little while but forever. Once time is up you are going to be separated from God, not for a little while but forever. To put it into the context of the Gabriel story, God will tell us over and over again that insisting on eating poison toads kills dogs, no matter how good a dog they might otherwise be.

These passages are not designed to make us unhappy or to cause us to have an unpleasant day. They are designed to open our eyes to the true gravity of our situation, to humble us and cause us to to seek God’s merciful and powerful grace. The prophet is not thumbing his nose at God’s chosen people saying, “Tough luck, it’s over, there’s no hope.” The prophet is announcing the inevitable consequences of sin and warning that the time to repent and return to the Lord is now: not tomorrow, not after lunch but right now. Jesus does not tell his judgment parables to taunt those who are about to suffer eternal damnation. He tells his judgment parables to rescue them, by inspiring people to look at him with fresh eyes. Jesus’ desire is to inspire enough humility in his listeners that they will actually be able to see past their own destructive passions and peer into the eyes of the Son of God who is standing right in front of them, offering them God’s forgiveness.

When Jonah finally preached judgment against Nineveh, the people of Nineveh humbled themselves. They threw ashes on their heads and tore their clothing. They fasted and they repented. And (much to Jonah’s chagrin) God did not destroy the city. God had mercy on them and spared them.

Over the next several weeks, as we close out this Church year, we are going to be given the same opportunity Nineveh was given. We are going to be given the opportunity to listen to the hard words of God’s messengers and to hear God’s grave warnings. You can take it as a burden but I would suggest you see it as a great privilege. We are extremely fortunate that God, in his mercy, has chosen to speak these words to us ahead of the time, and has given us another opportunity to amend our lives while there is still time. We are going to be given the opportunity to open our eyes to the gravity of our situation and to humble ourselves, to receive the Gift of God’s forgiveness. That is an priceless gift. Over and over we will see that we have been driven by passions, passions that make our souls sick, passions that lead us away from the Kingdom of God and towards eternal death. But our Lord Jesus Christ was also driven by a passion—a holy passion. And his passion is humanity. His passion is you. More than anything else he desires to see you saved. On the day he was crucified He welcomed the beating he endured because it was the means of restoring you. He let the soldiers spit in his face because he took your humiliation upon himself. When he died upon the cross he died to cancel your debt to God. All that you owed God Jesus paid on your behalf. Jesus paid it all. He paid it all for every one of us. Jesus paid it all for everyone who has ever lived. Jesus’ holy passion has opened up the Gates to God’s eternal city. He has clothed us in pure white robes and he bids us come, come to the banquet. Your debt is paid. You have been stripped of your chains. You are free.

Proverbs 27.6 reads, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” That is a good word for us in the weeks to come. If you feel wounded by the Word of God, I beg you to take the message to heart. God has sent you a healing word. Know that the Lord seeks your welfare and that if you hear a hard or difficult word from him, it is meant for your good. If we humble ourselves before the word of God only good can come of it. Humble yourselves, therefore, in the sight of the Lord, in order that he may lift you up. Amen.

October 18, 2011

PA Supreme Court Denies Appeal

Dear Friends,

Below is a letter from Bishop Duncan notifying everyone that our last appeal was denied. This means that the decision of the Common Pleas Court of Allegheny County stands. Those properties deeded to the Trustees of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh belong to the Episcopal Church. While this decision is a disappointment it was not unexpected and the Anglican Diocese has already made the adjustments required by the original court decision.

The decision does not change our status at Trinity, Beaver. We were never named as defendants in the original lawsuit and our property is not deeded to the Trustees of the Episcopal Church. Our case has yet to be heard by any court. Our hope is that it will never have to be heard, that we can arrive at a fair and amicable settlement with the Episcopal Diocese. We do, however, believe that our case is a good one and that, if pressed, we will win in a court of law.

Please continue to pray for those parishes whose property is at risk. Pray that they may find a reasonable and satisfactory settlement that will meet their worship needs. And please continue to pray for our parish leadership as they seek a final resolution to this matter.

Bishop Duncan's letter can be found below.

Blessings, Scott+

Appeal to PA Supreme Court Denied

18th October, A.D. 2011

Feast of St. Luke


Dearest Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

I write to you today to inform you that our appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has been rejected. We accept that the courts have not found in our favor and will, of course, comply with all court orders.

We remain committed to reaching a negotiated settlement with the Episcopal Church diocese. In light of this judgment by the courts, we will redouble that commitment to reaching a final resolution of all issues between the Episcopal Church diocese and the Anglican diocese through negotiation.

We intend to persevere in our mission, which is to be Anglican Christians transforming our world with Jesus Christ. We do this chiefly by planting congregations. As at every annual Convention since realignment, congregations are being added to our diocese both locally and across the country, for which we give thanks to God. We pray God’s continued favor on our mission, his grace towards those who remain within the Episcopal Church, and his help for our beloved Communion as we move into the challenges and opportunities of this new millennium. May the Gospel of our Lord Christ find a fresh hearing all across his Church and his world!

Faithfully your Bishop and Archbishop,

+Robert Pittsburgh

September 29, 2011

Mission to Kajire, Kenya

Kajire is a village in Southeastern Kenya about 100 miles from the Indian Ocean. It is a rural area. The local economy is agricultural--mostly subsistence level farming.

Kajire became a point of interest for Trinity Church, Beaver two or three years ago. A parishioner became friends with the Rev Ferdinand M'bwangi who visited Western Pennsylvania for a couple of years while attending seminary. One night at dinner Ferdinand admired the runnning water in our houses and he began to talk about the village where he was born. There is no water in Kajire, except for the little bit that can be collected at a water hole a couple of miles away. And so, people in 2011, much as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago, walk to the water hole, gather their day's water (if there is any left) and walk back home. That parishioner, our parish, determined to help the people of Kajire get a well in their village. That well is currently being dug.

It just so happens that Kajire is also right in the middle of the worst drought Africa has experienced in many years (and that is saying a lot). No water means no crops and no crops means no food produced. It also means no crop to sell in order to buy food. The people of East Africa, and our friends in Kajire, are starving to death as a consequence of no rain!

A number of us in the parish have been praying for Kajire for a long time now. And the Lord has placed a burden for Kajire on our hearts. The Lord is calling us to find ways to partner with our brothers and sisters there, to alleviate their suffering, to build indigenous industry, to help them help themselves. The Lord has also called us to go and meet his people in Kajire, up close and personal. And so a group of us will go to Kajire in January, to meet the local leaders, to survey the area for opportunities to serve, and to preach the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We go as representatives of Trinity Church, Beaver and we will bring back and share our experience with everyone.

I will be posting a series of blogs about our relationship with the people of Kajire over the next few months. The articles are written with the intention that those of you just hearing about Kajire will feel moved to join in this mission and for those who have already been moved to join in the project, to keep you informed about what is going on.

The need in East Africa is immense. Large numbers of people are dying of starvation daily. If you saw the numbers it would break your heart. Trinity parish will never be able to meet anywhere near all the need but we can do what we can do. And our Lord honors all effort. If we do what we can, many will be blessed by our efforts. So, I invite you to join in this great adventure, as we seek to serve the least, the last and the lost. What could be closer to God's heart than people reaching out to help lift their brothers and sisters up? After all, isn't that what Jesus has done for all of us?

"Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: so clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen."

August 19, 2011

Going to Kajire with Living Water

An Appeal for Trinity Church’s Mission to Kajire

Dear Friends,
If you have been listening to my preaching over the last four years then you should have heard a consistent message about the Lord’s call on each of us to be disciples, and that being disciples is not about simply believing in Jesus in our heads. It is about living and acting in the ways that Jesus lived and acted. Disciples do not just know what the rabbi knows. Disciples do what the rabbi does. If we want to call ourselves Christians we must be disciples of rabbi Jesus. And that means we are called to do what Jesus does.

That brings me to the Kajire well project. Isn’t this water well we are attempting to build in Kenya about getting life-giving water to people who are thirsty? Isn’t it about getting water to people who do not currently have ready access to water? As a Christian community we heard Jesus speak to us about the suffering of his people in Kenya and we responded to his clear call by doing the sort of thing our Lord would do. We provided the funds required to relieve people’s suffering. But there is another form of suffering even worse than the thirst for water. It is the suffering that comes from not knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He came to us in order that we might know him. If we are really interested in these people’s lives and alleviating their suffering shouldn’t we be going to them to make sure that they hear and they know that Jesus has come for them? To save them? I believe that this Kajire well project is a perfect opportunity for us to begin a conversation with the local people about a God who loves them so much that he calls his servants from half way around the world to bring them water—not just well water but the living Water of Life.

A couple of us have been praying about this for quite awhile now and I believe that God is calling us to send representatives from Trinity Beaver to the Kajire village, as representatives of Christ’s church, to celebrate the well AND to bring the Gospel message to anyone there who will listen. I am ready to answer God’s call and go to Kajire. I wonder if you will help in three ways?

1)Pray for the trip and for those who go on it. Pray for our safety, that the message of God’s love and salvation would be spoken clearly and received by many.

2)Consider going to Kajire with me. The Lord may have a purpose for you there. Ask him, and if you believe you may be called to go, please contact me.

3)Provide financial backing for the trip. I cannot afford to finance this trip myself. The church's annual budget is tight. Would you make a one-time gift to provide the money required for airfare, housing and meals for the mission?

Prayer, team members and the money to fund the trip are all vital to the success of this mission. Would you prayerfully consider joining in and helping? Blessings to you. I am thankful for your partnership in this ministry,


July 8, 2011

The Silent Sermon

A friend of mine in Texas sent this to me:

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the preacher decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his preacher's visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace... And waited.

The preacher made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, the preacher took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone, then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one lone ember's flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and dead.

Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The preacher glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow, once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the preacher reached the door to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I will be back in church next Sunday."

June 23, 2011

Pass It On

a simple act of evangelism that has gone untried

by Fr. Scott Homer

Everyone has their preferred means of communications. For some it is the telephone. More and more people use telephones to text one another. My preferred method of communicating is face to face but that is followed closely by email. Just about everybody, old and young, is emailing these days. It has become America’s means of sharing life with one another.

That is why Trinity has begun the practice of sending out a weekly email newsletter. The email newsletter is a fast and efficient way of sharing this parish’s life with one another. Almost everybody I ask tells me that the Trinity Newsletter is attractive, informative and professional. They tell me they read it, in its entirety, just about every Monday. And that causes me to wonder why we don’t forward it to our families, friends and neighbors. Wouldn’t that be an excellent way to let them know what we are doing in church, and also a friendly and gentle way of letting them know they we are inviting them to join in that aspect of our lives we call church?

Many of us forward jokes, or oddities, or product coupons that we receive via email. Why not forward Trinity Newsletter? Perhaps those people you are afraid to talk religion with would be blessed by receiving news about your church and the many wonderful programs that are happening there. At worst, they can shrug and hit delete. In either case you have fulfilled, in a very simple and unassuming way, your obligation “ give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence...” (1Peter 3.15)

June 9, 2011

Blessed in Brokenness

by Fr. Scott Homer

Once a month the residents of a number of group homes come to Trinity, Beaver to share in a lunch with dozens of volunteer parishioners. The event has been dubbed the Mustard Seed Café. Our guests come faithfully month after month and they receive tremendous meals served up with a smile. The question I am asking is, why? Why do they come? What do they need that we provide? A bowl of soup, a sandwich, some chips and a beverage? Sure, I guess, but they would have those things without us. They don’t need to venture outside their homes to get their bellies fed, so what is it that brings them to us?

Community, friendship, acceptance, love, forgiveness? Obviously they cannot articulate these things to us but isn’t that why they are really coming? They are coming to see you! They are coming to be greeted by you! They are coming because you are glad to see them, because you sit and talk to them, joke with them, sing with them, pray with them! They are coming because they love you and they enjoy being loved back.

Are they hungry and needing to be fed? Well yes, but they are not hungry for food. They are hungry for joy. They are hungry for companionship. They are hungry for relationships that greet them, and encourage them, and support them. Healthy relationship: that is the hunger that is beginning to be met at Mustard Seed Café. The core of every healthy relationship is love and the ultimate source of that love is Jesus Christ.

For the disabled and the handicapped relationships are often difficult. Many have grown up in relationships characterized by abuse and neglect. Many have been laughed at, mocked, humiliated and degraded. Many have been taken advantage of, used, or ignored. Many have grown to hold themselves in extreme contempt and to distrust others. They see little or no value in themselves as human beings. They do not like what they see when they look in the mirror. When they look in the mirror they see the “despicable me” the world has taught them to see. Is there any doubt about why they love the positive attention you show them?

“They” are not alone. Although we spend most of our lives attempting to mask our neediness and deny our lack of self-worth, although we want to feel good about ourselves and to know we are valuable to others, the truth for many of us is that we are hungry to be greeted, encouraged, and supported. We are hungry for positive, healthy relationships too. We too have heard so many negative voices for so many years. I pray that our church will become a place where healthy relationships support people by encouraging them, supporting them and nurturing them. I pray that the need for community that is central to every human being would be met in this church as we remind each other that we are forgiven, protected and welcomed by the head of our community Jesus Christ. I pray that many of us will model our lives after his example.

We are all hungry for relationships and if we cannot get healthy ones we will settle for unhealthy ones. Welcome to America. Welcome to the problems of drug abuse, alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, compulsive shopping, compulsive eating and compulsive living. If someone is starving he will settle for junk food. When people are starved for healthy relationship they will settle for any relationship, no matter how destructive. I pray that the people we know, the people who live around us will never have to settle for unhealthy relationships because they will find us to be a ready source of healthy ones.

The Mustard Seed Café at Trinity Church is a fairly new venture but already we have established a toehold on the true meaning of community. In our relationships with the truly broken, the truly marginalized and the truly poor, we are seeing our own brokenness and our own needs. As we see God's grace operating through us we begin to recognize the presence of the One who meets us, greets us, encourages and strengthens us, not in our areas of strength but in our greatest weaknesses. The heart of the community we are finding at the Mustard Seed Café is the heart of Jesus blessing us and encouraging us as we learn to bless and welcome one another.

In the months ahead I hope we will be able to find creative ways to point to the presence of the Holy One in our midst, to name Him and proclaim Him and rejoice in what He is doing for us. And I hope that we will begin to find ways to operate outside of the box, to explore new avenues for deepening our commitment to one another and to the community. What a blessed beginning the Lord has given us!

The next Mustard Seed Cafe will be held June 26 at 12:15pm in the parish hall. Try it. We believe you will like it.

June 7, 2011

The Ascension: Hope and Assurance Affirmed

by Fr. Scott Homer

A sermon for the 7th Sunday of Easter:

A large percentage of Christians around the world gathered in churches on Thursday to worship God and to celebrate the anniversary of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. We had quite a large number gather here. But why did we gather on the anniversary of the Ascension?

To answer that question I would like to quote two passages from scripture and then take you to one of my favorite places from long ago. It was an extraordinary place in many ways and I hope will give us some insight into the value of Jesus opening up the possibility of heaven to you and me. The first passage from Scripture is Psalm 127.1: “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build …” The second is from the Letter to the Hebrews 9.24: Hebrews 9.24, “Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”

To get to this place I liked so much, you had to walk off the noisy, crowded and busy city street, climb a series of steps approaching the building until finally you walked through large glass doors and into an mammoth lobby area built of very expensive stone and glass but otherwise open, plain, and largely utilitarian, as lobbies usually are. But we are not interested in the lobby. That is not why we have come and so we walk over to the banks of elevators. To get where we want to go we are going to have to ascend to the top of the building, and so we must choose the correct elevators because some of the elevators only service the lower half of the building. We need one of the elevators that will go all the way to the top, to the 103rd floor. The elevators are large, the size of small office, also nicely appointed but largely utilitarian and so nothing in the public areas of this building prepares you for what you are about to see. After a climb that seems to last forever, long after your ears have popped due to the change in atmospheric pressure, the door of the elevator finally opens.

As the door opens you find yourself beaconed into the most extraordinary space. It’s magical; it’s luminous, glittery and golden, with subdued, sophisticated lighting. There is a hushed atmosphere to the place with just a hint of elegant music in background. You feel like it would be crass to speak in a normal voice. You want to whisper. As you step off the elevator you feel as if you have indeed entered Cloud Nine. Here is refinement, beauty, and comfort combined into an environment which pushes the edges of human design. Surely, this must be the work of angels. This is a restaurant where every table has enough space to be alone and intimate even as its occupants share the room with many others. And you share the room with extraordinary smells and tastes and sounds and sights. In this restaurant, it is not cliché to say that you are experiencing a bit of heaven. And that feeling is enhanced by the ceiling to floor, and wall to wall windows through which you can gaze upon the millions of lights that illuminate the city by night. From this immense height you are convinced that you and these other fortunate few patrons are looking down from heaven upon a perfect earth. (I don’t know if you have ever noticed but there is no pain and no suffering from a distance—that only occurs up close) Beautiful, almost beyond human imagination, and yet this is not the Kingdom of heaven, not the creation of God or the Lord’s throne room. This is the Windows on the World Restaurant in the World Trade Center in New York City as I recall it in about 1978. Occupying the 103rd story in the tallest building in the world at that time, this was the closest thing to heaven that human creativity and industry could muster. Here at the top of the great cathedral of business and commerce was the place to strive for. The room smacked of money, power, creativity, genius. And when I entered that room at the age of 23 I thought, “This is it!” This is worth the striving, this is worth suffering to attain. If you could afford the prices on the menu in this place you really could know heaven on earth.

Of course the Windows on the World restaurant now symbolizes the problem. Nothing built by human hands lasts. Nothing devised or engineered by man can sustain itself. No matter how spectacular, no matter how rich, no matter how wonderful, the products of human labor and ingenuity are sure to fail, either from inherent structural flaws or from enemy attack. That fact was confirmed on on September 11, 2001. The great American tragedy of our time. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the workers labor in vain who build it.”

This morning we read an account of another ascent, not an ascent into a structure made by human hands, but an ascent into the Kingdom of God, a place far more spectacular than the Windows on the World Restaurant, and a place that has no inherent weakness, no design flaws a place impervious to attack. Here the rugs do not get dirty and worn. Here the glass is always clean. Here the staff is always courteous, and best of all, here everything on the menu is free because someone has already picked up your tab. All who ascend to this place will know joy, and peace, and fulfillment—not until it wears out, not until it gives out and not until it is taken from us. This place is the place built by the Lord, a product of God’s perfect will and purpose. This place lies beyond the fallen world where sin and death, anger and disease wield so much influence. The kingdom of God is set apart. It is pure and holy and it endures forever. “Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”

On the fortieth day after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, he ascended into heaven. Jesus is lifted up in a cloud and vanishes from sight. It is the final act in his work of salvation for his people. Jesus tells his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am you may be also.” You know that expression, “Life stinks and then you die?” It is a lie. At the end of these few years we enjoy on earth lies life, not death. The more accurate expression would be something like, “death stinks and then you live, and live and live.” Jesus ascension opens the door to God’s heavenly and eternal kingdom to us.

The Ascension affirms in fact what Jesus taught in word: that there is way more to life than what you can see, hear, taste, smell and feel. Human senses are severely limited and if we trust them to explain reality to us we will be misled. Our senses will persuade us that when we achieve the success that we hoped for in this life that we have actually arrived someplace significant, when in fact, our success in earthly terms has little to no bearing on our eternal relationship with Christ. Even worse, reliance on our senses will cause us to be blind, deaf and dumb to the spiritual realities that surround seemingly ordinary events. We simply cannot rely on our senses to tell the truth in the important matters. We are not to trust in the products of our own hands. We are not to judge our wellbeing based upon our circumstances. We are called to trust in God for our future. We are to invest ourselves in the things important to Jesus Christ. God is working. He is building and we can trust in that building.

Do what you want with your life. But unless what you do has some bearing on your relationship with Jesus Christ it is of little or no long-term value. In the end all of your work will fall—maybe not as dramatically as the World Trade Center, but our efforts will fall just as surely. And so we ought to live our days, plan our activities with some intentionality. Our choices matter—and unfortunately we humans tend to choose our desires instead of God’s purposes.

Most of us wonder how we will find time to pray in the midst of so many important activities. That is a misunderstanding of our priorities. We ought to be wondering how we are going to find time to do all these other things when we have so much praying to get done first. Can you imagine calling your spouse and apologizing for being late for dinner because you had to stay late to pray? Now there is a legitimate excuse for missing dinner. Can you imagine writing out an I owe you to God, a bill equal to a percentage of your take home pay and keeping it on top of your stack of bills? Can you imagine giving back to God before you pay the electric or the rent?

We have said that the only thing that matters in the long run is our relationship with Jesus Christ. If we truly believed that we would live differently. And I am here to tell you. It is not a hypothetical. It is true. When a person takes care of their relationship with God first and foremost, they and their family lose nothing. In fact, they really do find themselves living a better quality of life. I have seen it happen time and time again. Try it, I guarantee you will like it.

And I guarantee that you will never find yourself trusting in a building that is falling down around your ears, realizing that you have lost hope in your future, living in anxiety and fear, and wondering if there is a God who cares. That is the unfortunate place people without faith wind up. People who despair, at least many of them, have spent their lives excluding God from the fabric of their daily lives. Many of them lived in the delusion that they could construct a house out of their own strength, their own ingenuity and their own hard work only to discover that it has all been in vain. The bottom line is there is only one heaven. There is only one way to ascend into heaven. Heaven is prepared. It is ready for occupancy. The way to heaven has been paved by our Lord and Savior Jesus, and he has shown us the way. He is the way and he has promised that all that believe in him, all who make him Lord of their lives, will find their home with him.

This first Sunday after the Ascension is a great reminder that our actual home is not here on planet earth. We are beings who were created to live in the heavenly realms but our minds and our wills have been misdirected. Our families and friends, even we ourselves have devoted ourselves to this worldly stuff thinking that somehow or another it would lead us to the things our hearts desire. Of course we have to live in this world, but we will never find the ability to live in this world gracefully let alone prepare for the world to come until we place God’s kingdom in the place of priority. We will never learn to manage life on life’s terms until we have submitted to living life according to God’s priorities.

Jesus ascended into heaven and we have been called to ascend into heaven as well. For Jesus the ascension was an event. In a moment he was raised up in a cloud and was gone. For us ascension is a process, a lifelong process that began when we were baptized and will end when we find ourselves before the throne of God singing, “Holy, holy, holy.” And I fear it is a process that we all neglect to our own detriment. I fear we suffer in this life needlessly because we defy God’s direction and refuse God’s assistance and grace. “Too busy to pray,” we say. “The world is too risky to trust,” we say. “If I give to God I will be the poorer,” we say. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto to you.

Do something dangerous this week: Surrender to God. Trust that he will care for you. Believe that your investment in your relationship with God will gain you more than you loose. That is the truth! That is actual reality! Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, dwelling in the place of perfection. And he has saved a place for you there. Amen.

May 27, 2011

Te Deum laudamus

You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord: we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father:
All creation worships you.
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you;
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.
You Christ are the king of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When you became man to set us free
you did not shun the Virgin's womb.
You overcame the sting of death
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
We believe that you will come and be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints
to glory everlasting.

May 25, 2011

Pastoral Care AA Style

This is taken from an AA daily devotional entitled, Twenty-Four Hours a Day (Hazelden):

Working with others can be subdivided into five parts:

The first thing in helping people is to earn their confidence. We do this by sharing our own experiences so that they can see that we know what we are talking about. If we share frankly they will know we are sincerely trying to help. They will realize they are not alone, that others have had equally bad experiences and they will gain confidence that they can be helped. (May 23)

By frankly sharing we get them talking about their experiences. They will open up and confess things to us they have not shared before. And they feel better when this confession is made. It’s a great load that is lifted when they get these things out in the open. It is the things that are hidden that weigh on the mind. They feel a sense of freedom and release when they open up to us. (May 24)

A prospect must be convinced that they want (to stop drinking). They must see and admit that their life in unmanageable. They must face the fact that they must do something. They must be absolutely honest with themselves and face themselves as they really are. They must be convinced that they must give up their old way of life and realize that their whole fate depends on this conviction. (May 25)

Conversion means change. Prospects must learn top change their way of thinking. They must now face a new and different life. They must see and admit that they cannot overcome their past by their own willpower, so they must turn to God for help. They must start each day asking god for the strength to walk in his ways. This conversion to belief in god comes gradually, as they try it and find that it works. (May 26)

Continuance means staying with them after they have started on the new way of life. We must stick with them and not let them down. We must encourage them to attend church meetings, bible studies, and prayer groups regularly for fellowship and help. They will learn that life is a lot easier in the fellowship of others who are trying to do the same thing. We must help others by going to see them regularly or telephoning them or writing them so that they don’t get out of touch with the church. (May 27)

May 21, 2011

Another Christian Thumping

by Father Scott Homer

The headline reads, Apocaplyse Not: Harold Camping Wrong-Again-about 'The Rapture'. But the real news is not that somebody somewhere is predicting the end of the world. That is about as common as sliced bread. The news story is really about a news media that is so intent on slinging mud at Christian leaders and so devoted to making them look stupid that they will create a story just to promote anti-Christian sympathies. This Harold Camping guy predicted the rapture before. He got big news coverage before. He was wrong before. He is a crackpot and virtually every reasonable person in the world has said so. So, when is the media going to stop parading him and guys like him before the public as if they are legitimate spokesmen for the Faith? Answer: when the media is convinced that nobody is paying attention to the legitimate Christian leaders anymore.

Is Today the End of the World?

by Father Scott Homer

If you own a radio, TV, telephone or internet capable device then you have surely heard that some folks at the Family Radio Network are predicting that the Rapture will occur today at 6PM. Depending on the news source feeding information to you, this anticipated event has been characterized as "Armageddon, the end of the world, the return of Jesus Christ, and the Rapture." Commentators are focusing on doom and gloom when they are not focusing on the wackos that are claiming today to be the day. And if you are like me you are just confused by reporting that seems intent on laughing at these predictions and yet fascinated, even wishing, that God might actually intervene in the affairs of men again. So what do we make of all this?

Firstly, if the Rapture occurs at 6pm as predicted, and I have serious reservations about it (to say the least), it will be a very good thing for those who are raptured. It means they will be lifted out of the current mess and live in God's glorious presence with no suffering or pain. Not so good for the vast majority of people who would not be raptured! They would remain on earth enduring an increasingly dark and evil trajectory of world events that would eventually lead to the final end.

And that is the second point: The rapture, as described by St John is not the end of the world, although it would certainly point to the beginning of the end. The rapture is described as God sparing his saints from the final episode of Earth's demise, but that final episode takes some time and John is quite clear that the people who are not raptured, and who remain in the midst of the mess do so by their own choosing. They are those who refuse to listen to the testimony of God's messengers. The people of doom are the people choosing it! And that brings us to point three.

Do you love the Lord? Do you confess and repent of your sins? Are you trying to live as a child of God? Then you have nothing to fear! God is not a monster seeking to destroy people. (that would be the devil) The same St John who describes the final battle for Earth in Revelation writes in his first letter, "God is love." In other words, God desires that you prosper, not suffer. God desires that you be saved not that you be lost. God's desire is the restoration of the world and not its destruction. God is love and God's love will finally conquer. And that brings me to the final point.

The Book of Revelation does not end with smoke, rubble and ash. The final scene is not one of total devastation and destruction. Rather, it is one of a restored and perfected world in which our God reigns. Jesus Christ reigns in victory in a new Heaven and a new Earth where evil, sin and death are vanquished and where God's people live, in the flesh, enjoying an eternity of peace and joy. There may be battles that must be fought along the way. There may be suffering and loss to endure but the story does not end in desolation. Quite the contrary. It ends with God's people victorious and in glory!

So, come Lord Jesus. May today be the day! And whether it is or is not, may we today give you the praise and the glory for all the wonderful blessings that you have showered on us, this day and always. Amen.

May 19, 2011

Update on Bud and Kathleen

I got a surprise phone call from Bud the other day. It was good to hear his voice: same old joyful demeanor! Bud and Kathleen are living and doing ministry in East Aurora, NY. Their son Jacob is now 18 months old. Bud is serving in an ACNA parish there and is asking that we pray for new members. The parish is small and struggling to pay the bills. If you would like to drop them a note and say hi I am sure they will appreciate it. Bud's email address is Blessings, Fr. Scott

May 18, 2011

Packing the Right Things for the Big Move

by Jay Morgan

(Our Senior Warden reflects on his recent transition and the ways it informs our understanding of our parish's own transition. -Fr. Scott)

I prayed with Fr. Scott last year about my growing family’s need for a larger home. I began by thanking God for all His provisions. Scott interrupted me: “Ask Him for a house.” I started again with another rambling prayer. He interrupted again: “Ask Him for a house.” So I asked plainly, putting my family’s need before Him. Several months later we moved into our new home. But, as the Lord provides He also teaches. Searching for a house is one thing—moving into it is another…

Just four people moving a mere five miles––yet it was difficult to decide what to take, what to replace, or what to throw out. Can we really part with our 20-year-old college textbooks? (The answer, apparently, was “no.”) The kids no longer play with these toys, do they? (“We still want them, Dad.”) Speaking of the kids, they were leaving the only home they had ever known. We have had to juggle packing with their school schedules and our two jobs—and our fifteen-year-old dog that is in frail health. To add to the stress, our appliances began dying: first the washing machine, then the oven, and finally the vacuum cleaner.

On moving day, our refrigerator’s icemaker line leaked all over the kitchen floor after the movers had taken the unit away. As a plumber worked at the old house, an electrician was updating the old wiring for the new washer and dryer. Both were unplanned expenses. Still, we are grateful for the electrician and plumber’s expertise and for the movers who had done the heavy lifting.

Even though we are thankful we are frustrated with the piles of boxes still unpacked—boxes with labels such as “pictures,” “clothes,” and “vases—very breakable.” That last label, I imagine, was for me. And while most of our furniture works well, some pieces do not. That dresser is too big, that table is too small, and did that floor lamp always lean like that?
After this move I now have a new appreciation for the Exodus. The Hebrews left the only home they had ever known, laden with plunder, and being chased and seemingly cornered. On the other side of the Red Sea, the Israelites had fashioned their Egyptian gold into the form of a calf, a representation of an Egyptian god. Yes, it is hard to let go of old places and familiar things.

In our Christian journey, letting go of the old is what we are called to do. In Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul admonishes us “to set our minds on the things that are above not on the things that are on earth” (v. 2). We are raised with Christ and hidden in Him, Who is seated at the right hand of God. In that sense we all have that new heavenly address; yet we bring the wrong things with us. Those things labeled “impurity, covetousness, slander, and anger,” (vv. 5-7) for example, do not fit with our new heavenly surroundings. Trying to bring them with us will only cause pain, frustration, and sorrow. The things that will fit in our new home are labeled “compassion, kindness, humility, patience, meekness, forgiveness.” Tying these all together, writes the apostle, is love (vv. 12-14).

Our parish is also on a kind of Exodus. Trinity Beaver with most of the diocese has left The Episcopal Church. Without either accusing TEC of holding us in bondage or making light of real slavery—we have property that we have taken with us in our departure and we are being pursued. Yet, whether we litigate, negotiate, or relocate, we need to be sure that we pack “the things that are above.” We will need to bind these heavenly things in love for ourselves (such as “patience”) as well as for our TEC counterparts (namely, “forgiveness”). While our Trinity home for the future is uncertain, we know that the Lord is leading us to something new. And He has already done the heavy lifting in our deliverance, so let’s pack appropriately.

By the way, I looked up in my calendar when I had prayed with Fr. Scott for a house. It was March 2, 2010. Diane and I signed the closing papers on February 25, 2011, 360 days later.

April 23, 2011

The Easter Homily of St. John Chrysostom

As the Great Vigil of Easter is celebrated around the world, preachers will read the Easter Homily of St. John Chrysostom, one of the greatest Christian orators in the history of the Church.

Christ is Risen!

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival. If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the
joy of his Lord. If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay. For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.

Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!

Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness. Let no one lament his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn his transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior's death has set us free.

He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into hades and took hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! And anticipating this Isaiah exclaimed, "Hades was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions." It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!

It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!

"O death, where is thy sting? O death, where is thy victory?"

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!

For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the First-fruits of them that slept.

To him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.

March 19, 2011

Planning Update: Litigate? Negotiate? Relocate?

Dear Parish Family,

This Lenten season we are living through an uncertain time for our parish church. I hope you came to one of the informational meetings we held to discuss the potential threat to our property. The Episcopal Church continues to insist that our property is their property and they are pressing their claim against us. We said, at those meetings, that our options were limited but clear. We could litigate, relocate, or negotiate. We also said that our immediate goal was clear. We would like to be faithful to God’s call and if possible we would like to remain in our present building. In order to best serve those goals, we wanted to gather the information and do the planning necessary to be well prepared to exercise any one of our options if and when it became prudent to do so.

I want to report to you that we are well on our way to accomplishing those initial goals. We have begun to explore the litigation option--enough said about that at present. A relocation team is meeting to develop a detailed and implementable plan for quickly moving our operations to another facility should we be forced into it. (we hope and pray that this is a remote possibility) The relocation team will also explore long-term options. The question they are attempting to answer is, what is the future that the Lord may be calling us into. Finally, we have met with what we hope will be the core of our negotiating team and we have discussed how we might begin to seek a settlement with the other side.

This is all very blessed news! Within a few days I hope to be able to report to you that we are ready, regardless of what the future may hold. I am sorry that all this is so sketchy at the moment. As we are able to release greater detail we will. For now, I wanted you to know that things are moving along. Our goal is to do God's will with integrity and we hope that means remaining in our present building. We also hope it means as little disruption as possible. We are not naïve however. This present dispute has real potential for harm to our current operations. We are, therefore, moving forward with contingency planning so that regardless of what may confront us we can continue to proclaim the good news in Jesus Christ and advance the Kingdom of God.

Thanks for your prayers on behalf of the parish, the parish leadership and me. It is pretty apparent that God is hearing you. I have personally felt bouyed up and carried forward in a way that can only be explained in supernatural terms. As always, call me if you have any concerns you would like to share. Our Lord is able to accomplish all things and he has promised that He will be in the midst of our current circumstances leading us into the new life He has prepared for us.

Blessings to you all, Fr. Scott

March 7, 2011

Summary of Last Meeting of Parish Leaders

From Canon Mary Hays
March 7, 2011

Dear friends,

Here is a brief update, as promised. On Saturday, March 5, about 200 of our parish leaders met to discuss the best way forward in light of current events.

. The Archbishop described how conversations with the Standing Committee had clarified values that would mark our oversight of all negotiations with the TEC Diocese. Negotiations must allow all of our parishes to survive and thrive; must allow the Diocese to continue its service to congregations; and must not cause harm to the Province as it seeks to care for congregations in other dioceses.

· Standing Committee president Geoff Chapman explained the content of Bishop Price’s letter and pastoral direction of March 1.

· Standing Committee member Jonathan Millard invited those present to sign “An Open Letter to the Clergy and People of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church.” We hope that this letter will be shared widely, as a blueprint for godly negotiations in the weeks ahead.

· Canon Mary Hays explained how congregations will be better equipped to negotiate if they have worked on their “BATNA” – their best alternative to a negotiated agreement. She and Chancellor Bob Devlin also provided a list of questions to help parishes clarify their mission and prepare for negotiating with the TEC diocese.

Parish leadership was also given the opportunity to gather in smaller “interest groups” to discuss what steps they were taking to clarify their mission and to respond to the demands of the TEC diocese. I left the meeting exhilarated and gratified. For years, we have been seeking a negotiated settlement with the TEC diocese. Now it seems as if such negotiations will become a reality. I was impressed by the good questions and hard work by our parish leaders.

In the past several weeks, I have met with a number of vestries – mostly those of parishes named in the Court Order. I have been so gratified to see a renewed commitment to mission in these parishes. Ironically, as congregations have considered the possibility of losing their property, they have become more focused on what really matters – reaching our neighbors with the love and power of Jesus Christ. Vestries have been asking hard questions about the best environment in which to carry out their particular piece of Christ’s mission. I have been struck by the prayerfulness, creativity and even excitement among vestries as they begin to take these tasks seriously.

Please continue to pray for the clergy, wardens, vestries and chancellors of our Pittsburgh-area diocesan parishes.

A special thanks to the clergy and lay leaders of our District 9 (“beyond the ‘burgh) and District 7 (Chicago, etc) parishes who have sent us warm greetings, promising their continued prayers. It is prayer that will get all of us through this – and enable us to give glory to God in the midst of our many challenges!

Much love and gratitude to you all,


An Open Letter to the Clergy and People of The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and to The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church USA

March 5, 2011

Hopes for Negotiations and A Call to Prayer

As we prepare to enter into good-faith negotiations, we ask the people of our two dioceses, and all Christian people in our communities, to pray that these negotiations will lead to fair and godly outcomes that will enable the mission of our churches to thrive.

We hope and pray that in the coming days the leaders and people in both our dioceses will find a way to seek blessing on one another. Specifically, we offer the following overarching principles in the hope that they might characterize the spirit of our efforts to resolve our differences:

1) Mutual Recognition: - that the members of each diocese may be able to recognize the other as seeking to be faithful to their Christian call as they perceive it, and to their conscience.

2) Mutual Forgiveness: - that the members of each diocese will work to forgive perceived wrongs and failures of charity.

3) Mutual Blessing and Release: - that anticipated settlements would not seek to damage the health and future of one another’s ministries.

It is our prayerful goal that our negotiations:

1) Assure that all the parishes and each diocese can survive and thrive;

2) Enable us all to move past litigation and focus on our respective missions;

3) Demonstrate our commitment to be at God’s best as we work to resolve our differences, mindful of the public and private impact of our disagreements.

Signed by clergy & lay leaders of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh gathered for a meeting at St. Martin’s, Monroeville.

Signed by Father Scott, and Jay Morgan

Transfigured and Transformed

The Last Sunday of Epiphany, March 6, 2011
by, The Reverend Denny Ugoletti

Christ was transfigured and we must be transformed

A woman testified to the transformation in her life that had resulted through her experience in conversion. She declared, "I’m so glad I got religion. I have an uncle I used to hate so much I vowed I’d never go to his funeral. But now, why, I’d be happy to go to it any time."

I don’t think this is the type of transformation we’re reading about today. The Collect for the Last Sunday of Epiphany has it right

O God, who before the passion of your only ¬begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The central point of today’s Gospel passage focuses on the word “transfigured.” It’s from the Greek word metamorphoo (pronounced meta-mor-phaw-o) in English we use “metamorphosis” - a complete change of form and substance like the total change of a caterpillar into a butterfly. St. Matthew records a complete change in the appearance or form of Jesus in the presence of Peter, James and John. Jesus became brighter than the light, revealing His true glory to them.

It is interesting to note that here we have the complete reversal of the theme of Philippians 2. In the Gospels the Servant takes on the form of God, revealing His glory. But in Philippians, Paul tells us that Christ Jesus took on the form of a servant.

St. Paul uses the same word in Romans 12:2 to remind us of our priorities - “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed (metamorphoo) by the renewal of your mind…”
Mega-church pastor and author Francis Chan wrote, “If it’s true that the spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not?”
Today we are talking about transformation – and that is the subject of Philippians 3: 7-14

In order to understand the passage we will need to set in its proper context: "A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text." D.A. Carson

According to Acts 16, the church at Philippi was the first church Paul planted in Europe. As such, Paul and the Philippians enjoyed a special relationship with one another. Paul is probably writing from a prison cell in Rome. In Greco-Roman society, just like our society today, incarceration carried a social stigma. But the church at Philippi did not abandon St. Paul during his time of trouble. They faithfully supported Paul’s ministry with prayer and finances, and sent Epaphroditus to Rome to look after Paul’s needs. Paul is writing this letter to thank the Philippians and to encourage them to live out their faith by following the pattern of Christ.

Chapters two and three form an extended demonstration of what true Christian fellowship should look like. At the close of the first chapter, Paul encourages the Philippians to have a “worthy walk,” that is, a walk or lifestyle worthy of Christ; worthy of the Gospel.
In chapter two, Paul shows us what a worthy walk looks like. His demonstration can be summarized with three points:
unity – of the same mind, of the same love, of the same purpose
humility – unselfish, unassuming, unpretentious
ministry – sacrificially serving one another in love

Brad Waggoner notes an important spiritual principle in his book, The Shape of Faith to Come. “Serving God and others is a mark of spiritual maturity. Without service, spiritual transformation is impossible.”

We are called to have the same mindset as Christ. To see how this is supposed to work, Paul presents the example of Christ to stress that the foundation of Christian fellowship is based upon sacrificial service.

Phil 2:5-11 (ESV) – the “Christ hymn”
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that 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.

In the light of Christ’s example, Christians are to work out their salvation (together) with fear and trembling (2:12). St. Paul is not speaking in the individual sense in this verse to advocate our North American style of “Lone Ranger” Christianity. He is implying a corporate “you” – we are to work out our salvation together, serving one another.

The pattern of Christ, as revealed in the Christ hymn, follows these lines: Jesus gave up his legitimate interest of equality with God and then he was exalted. The one who dispossesses all – even coming to the place of being dispossessed by God in the end comes to possess all things. St. Paul is saying that our calling is to imitate the pattern of Christ – both individually and corporately. We cannot demand equality from each other and seek our own interests or agenda. Instead, we are called to empty ourselves in service to one another with the expectation that, like Jesus, we will be honored and glorified by God.

To demonstrate this pattern, St. Paul presents himself as an example (2:17-18). He is being “poured out” as a drink offering to follow the pattern of Christ who “emptied out” by making himself nothing. He rejoices with the Philippians because he spends his life for them. Then, Timothy is presented as another example of one who imitated the pattern of Christ. (2:19-24). He is genuinely concerned for the welfare of the Philippians and his service is defined by their needs not his desires. Then St. Paul presents one of their own, Epaphroditus, a member of the church at Philippi, as another example of a life lived for others. (2:25-30). Epaphroditus risked his life to minister to St. Paul in prison and was so obedient he almost lost his life by serving. Paul is showing us that the essence of discipleship is to live in the pattern of Christ. Self-sacrifice flows out of a love for Christ and a concern for other believers.

As we come to chapter three, we find yet another demonstration. St. Paul once again uses his life as an example. He begins by telling us that the Kingdom of God is an upside down Kingdom. It is counter intuitive: down is up, loss becomes gain; gain becomes loss and all for the sake of Christ.

Loss becomes gain: St Paul uses three main points to demonstrate this – pattern, perusal and pedigree (3:4-11).

Pattern: The form of Christ’s self-emptying becomes the pattern for shaping the apostle’s life. St. Paul shows that his obedience followed the Christ pattern. He gave up status to become an obedient slave and now his gains are God-given. St. Paul’s one desire is to be found in Christ in the same way that Jesus was found in the form of a human being. To be found in Christ, is to be honored by God with the gift of righteousness

Perusal: St. Paul examined his life and determined that he was bankrupt! Because of Christ St. Paul puts all of his former assets in the deficit column and counts them as a loss. He considers them liabilities and hindrances to the life of faith. This resonates with me because the Lord brought me to the same place in my life. I was reading the Bible to check it out when I realized the Bible was checking me out! And I was coming up short. I thought was climbing the ladder of success, only to discover that my ladder was propped up against the wrong building!

Pedigree: St. Paul’s pedigree: (3:4-6) He was somebody! And he was going somewhere! St Paul was connected, confident and proud of his heritage and achievements. After all, he was a proper Jew with the right lineage, born on the right side of the tracks. He did everything right. St. Paul was affiliated with the right political party. He had status as a scholar and religious leader and a reputation for being zealous for the law.

St Paul had it all going on, or so he thought until he met Christ on the Damascus Road and everything changed! It was then that his gains became loss.

Gain becomes loss (3:7-8): After meeting the Master, the apostle considered all of his worldly “gains” as losses for the sake of Christ! He counts them as rubbish! The Greek word actually means rubbish, refuse, dung or garbage that was thrown to the dogs. This word is a Greek word play that connects to the dogs or Judaizers in 3:2. Jim Elliot understood what St. Paul meant. If you remember, Elliot was a Christian missionary to Ecuador who was killed on January 8, 1956 along with 4 other missionaries while bringing the Gospel to the Auca Indians. Elliot had it right when he said, “He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” My maxim is not as eloquent but it gets the point across “…you will never see an armored car following a hearse.”

All for the sake of Christ: St Paul realized that loss becomes gain; gain becomes loss; all for the sake of Christ. In this section St. Paul tells us that there are only three things worth having in life:

The knowledge of Christ (3:8, 10): “…that I may know him!” If I asked how many of us know Barack Obama would you raise your hand? But the truth is that you don’t really know him – you only know about him. This is not the type of knowledge St. Paul is talking about. He is telling us that the only type of knowledge that matters is experiential knowledge – to know Christ in a personal way through faith.

The righteousness of Christ (v. 9): St. Paul tried to earn right-standing with God, but as soon as Christ came into his life he lost his self-righteousness and gained the righteousness of Christ! On his own, through his own efforts, the apostle realized he was spiritually bankrupt. But in Christ, thank God, there is an exchange. God puts Christ’s righteousness on our account and puts all of our sins on Christ’s account. St. Paul’s number one concern was to know Christ!
The fellowship of Christ (v. 10-11) St. Paul is willing to pay the price, any price, whatever it takes to go through the process of fellowship with Christ. Make no mistake there is a process to go through. St Paul began the process on the Damascus Road. It was not the end but the beginning of a long relationship with Christ. We also start the process when we give our lives to Christ. St. Paul leaves us with five points to remember as we go through the process of discipleship and fellowship with Christ.

Personal – “that I may know Him” at any cost, whatever the price. The process is personal. It is individually suited to your walk with Christ. I can’t walk your walk and you can’t walk mine. God designs our circumstances to help each one of grow in the knowledge of Christ (cf. Romans 8:28). It’s personal, but the outcome is the same for everyone – to know Christ and him crucified!

Powerful – “the power of His resurrection” – This is the gas in the apostle’s tank; this is what made him go. St. Paul was empowered by the Holy Spirit to live in the pattern of Christ. It’s no different for you and me; we all need God’s power, his resurrection power actively working in our lives. It is impossible to live out the Christian life, that is, to walk in the pattern of Christ without the enablement of the Holy Spirit. We cannot do it on with our own strength.

Painful – “the fellowship of His sufferings” – St. Paul counted it a privilege to suffer for Christ. He knew that suffering was the way that God molded and shaped him. Suffering comes to every follower of Christ, its part of the pattern. If we walk away with anything from St. Paul it is this - suffering will come but through faith it can be met with joy. Paul wrote the letter to Philippians while sitting in a Roman prison, yet the word joy is used more times in this letter than the combined total of the rest of his epistles. Like St. Paul, we should “[b]e anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (4:6).

Practical – “being conformed to His death” - The apostle is telling us that the Christ life is a cruciform life. St. Paul could live for Christ because he died to self and picked up his cross. The pattern of Christ includes the cross for every one of us. God bids us all to come and die on the cross that we may have new life with him!

Persistent – “by any means possible, I may attain the resurrection from the dead” The apostle had one main goal in life and he kept at it. And this was before the energizer bunny! Like an athlete in a long-distance race, he remained focused on the prize. He ran toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ.

Running towards the goal (3:12-16); St. Paul’s goal should also be our goal – to be all that Christ saved us for and wants us to be! It is important to note that the apostle never thought that he arrived but he continually did everything in his power to possess everything that God had for him. Beloved, you and I are also called to have the same attitude.

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between 2 "wolves" inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith." The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?" The old Cherokee replied, "The one you feed."

The million dollar question is - Which wolf do I feed? Which goal am I running for?
Work out: (2:12-13) – to win a race an athlete continually “works out” to condition and train. In the same way, St. Paul exhorts us to “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” We must work out what God works in us – through systematically reading the Word, praying without ceasing, and serving one another sacrificially in love.

Focus on the essentials: St. Paul gives us five things to focus on if we want to win the race!

Dissatisfaction (3:12-13a) – A holy dissatisfaction is essential for spiritual progress. We need to learn to be satisfied with an unsatisfied satisfaction. “Not that I have already attained.” St. Paul was satisfied with Christ but he wasn’t satisfied with his Christian walk. He never allowed himself to become complacent. In the Kingdom of God to stand still means to go backwards – everyone else is passing you up!

Devotion (3:13a) – the believer must devote his or her self to running the Christian race. St. Paul says that there is only one thing that he does. One thing! Not many things – just one thing! (Success comes by specializing). In Mark’s Gospel – Jesus told the rich young ruler - there was “One thing you lack” (10:21). In Luke’s Gospel Jesus told a busy Martha, “One thing is needful!” (10:42). In John’s Gospel, the blind man who received sight testified, “One thing I know” (9:25). In the Psalter, the psalmist said, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek after!” (27:4). Remember the old saying, “When E.F. Hutton talks, everyone listens.” When the apostle to the Gentiles says that there is but one thing to do – are we listening?

Direction (3:13b) – the Christian has to be future oriented - forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead! You cannot move forward if you’re continually looking back. We need to have a sight on where we’re headed. "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). To move forward means to forget what is behind us. The Biblical definition of “to forget” does not mean “to fail to remember.” In the Biblical sense “to forget” means to no longer be influenced by or affected by someone or something. “Forgetting those things that are behind” requires that we leave the past in the past. We can only break the power of the past by living for the future! This requires reframing. We cannot change the past, but we can change the meaning of the past by taking a heavenly perspective on things! The best time to plant an oak tree was 25 years ago – the next best time is now!

Determination (3:14) – I press on! I pursue! I strive! I strain! St. Paul was determined! We also need to be determined! The Greek word is used to describe a hunter eagerly pursuing his prey! Determined means that we put as much effort into our spiritual life as we do golfing, bowling, fishing or shopping! (I know, preacher you are meddling!)

Discipline (3:15-16) - maturity requires discipline! A disciple is one who comes under the discipline of the Master. It requires discipline to form and shape our lives by the pattern of Christ and not be conformed by the spirit of this present age. If we discipline ourselves to keep in step with Christ then Christ will keep us in step with one another!

Throughout this letter, Paul compels us to follow the pattern of Christ. The fellowship of Christians is a unity that comes from yielding to the Holy Spirit and expressing our humility through self-sacrifice and self-emptying love for one another. The example of Christ serving humanity, of Paul serving the Philippians, of Timothy and Epaphroditus serving Paul and the church, and finally, even the example of the Philippians serving Paul – all illustrate the same pattern. Not counting one above one another leads to service for others. In these uncertain times, as we move forward into God’s plan for our church let us commit to follow the pattern of Christ and join the Fellowship of the Unashamed:

The Fellowship of the Unashamed
(Author unknown)

I am a part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.” The die has been cast. The decision has been made. I have stepped over the line. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense and my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, love with patience, live by prayer and labor with power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable and my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won't give up, shut up, let up or slow up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up and spoken up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My banner is clear: I am a part of the "Fellowship of the Unashamed."