Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Lord's Prayer, Part 1

The Lord's Prayer has been apart of the Church’s worship since its inception. The Didache, a 1st century Christian document (meaning it very well may be as old as the Gospel of John!), teaches that it is proper that the Lord’s Prayer be prayed three times per day. Because we pray it every day as a discipline of our personal prayer life, and because we pray it collectively as part of our liturgical worship on the Lord’s Day, we should understand it!

There are seven petitions in the prayer: the first half focus our attention on the object of our worship: God. In light of what we profess about God in the first half, we then in the second half of the prayer ask God to intercede in our life through his provision and protection. Tonight, we shall look at the first three phrases of the Lord’s Prayer: 1) Our Father; 2)Who art in heaven; 3) Hallowed by thy name.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Union with God: The Incarnation and Its Consequences

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 
The life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 
That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 
And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete." (1 John 1:1-4)

As we approach the end of this Christmas season, I keep returning to the doctrine of the incarnation. St. John writes in the opening verses of his gospel, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." The Word, the second person of the Trinity, broke through to our timeline and dwelt in a virgin's womb for nine months. By her, he became a man, and his name is Jeshua, Jesus, which means “Salvation.” As a human child, he grew. He fed from his mother’s milk, just like us. He first crawled then learned to walk, just like us. He fell and bruised his knees, just like us. He even lived through puberty, just like us. He grew in wisdom and knowledge, just like us. He was like us in every way save one – he knew no sin. He entered into his creation that he might redeem and renew it. This is the Doctrine of the Incarnation: God became man so that we might become one with him through his body. Jesus is 100% human while maintaining full 100% divinity. If the math sounds wrong it's because this is a mystery, something we will never be able to fully grasp. The Apostle Paul calls it "the mystery of godliness" (1 Tim. 3:16).

Friday, December 22, 2017

'Doubting' Thomas: A Man of Great Faith

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. 
Then our mouth was filled with laughter and tongue with shouts of joy.”
Psalm 126:1-2a

This week we observe the feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle. Thomas often gets a bad rap. We remember him as “Doubting Thomas.” I remember seeing one cartoon that pictured Thomas speaking with another Apostle. The caption read: “All I’m saying is we don’t call Peter ‘Denying Peter’ or Mark ‘Ran-away-naked Mark.’ Why should I be saddled with this title?”

We all have doubts. We all have times of weakness where our faith in God seems to falter. John the Forerunner, after he baptized Jesus, sent his disciples to Jesus to make sure he really was the promised Messiah. Even Peter, the leader of the Apostles, thrice denied our Lord.

Great men have great struggles. Some struggle with doubt from time to time. But these doubts provide fertile soil for the gospel to grow. The story of Thomas teaches us that faith and holiness themselves are a gift of God, and Thomas receives those gifts upon gazing at our resurrected Lord. His doubt gives way to the greatest expression of faith in the Gospels. Peter calls Jesus the Christ; John the Forerunner calls Jesus the Lamb of God. But it is “doubting” Thomas, when grasping the full humanity of Jesus in his hands, declares Jesus is fully divine: my Lord and my God. Thomas knows the truth of the resurrection. He knows that death has been dealt a fatal blow. He knows that the head of the serpent has been crushed by the man standing before him. Like the Psalmist, his mouth is filled with laughter and his tongue with joy.

May we follow Thomas, discovering that our bondage has truly been restored in Christ Jesus. May our mouths we be filled with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy as we join our voices with St. Thomas proclaiming that Jesus is our Lord, Jesus is our God.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Dirt, Spit, and Water

Our world is a dark one. We walk this life in the darkness of the valleys, not on the bliss of the mountain tops, even though we walk faithfully with God. Things happen in our life that we cannot explain: a spouse dies, a child is suddenly taken ill, you receive a frightening report from the doctor. We live in this fallen world surrounded by disease, darkness, and death. But where does spiritual darkness come from? Darkness comes from sin. The apostle Paul teaches that through one man, Adam, sin entered into the world. In Romans 6 we learn that the wages of sin is death: sin leads to death. From sin and death spring spiritual darkness, disease, and sorrow.

How do we overcome death, darkness, and disease? Jesus overcomes it for us for only he is the "Light of the World." When Jesus shines his light into our spiritual darkness, the darkness must flee. Everything that accompanies darkness (sin, disease, and death) is snuffed out. We see one example of Jesus shining his light into the darkness of a blind man in the Gospel of John, chapter nine.
"I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing (John 9:5-7).
This is such a fascinating way to heal a man. Sometimes, Jesus heals people with a command, other times he invites them to stand up and walk. However, this time, Jesus uses tangible means of mud, spit, and water to bring healing. What can we learn from this?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Why do we mourn? What is it that turns our joy into sorrow? We mourn because we recognize brokenness in this world. We immediately see it in the sting of death. We mourn because we have lost someone —  a friend, a parent, a child, a spouse —  to death. I knew a priest who within the span of a few years buried about 10 people in his parish. “Death is something I never get used to,” he would say, “because we are not supposed to get used to it. Death is not a part of God’s original plan for creation.” Death was introduced into the world because of sin. It’s a good thing to not get used to death. It is foreign to our make-up as humans.
Those who mourn shall be blessed because of the resurrection. When we die that is not the end of our life. We shall be raised up again to new life in Jesus Christ on that last day. About the resurrection, Paul writes, "And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Cor. 15:14). The resurrection, then, is our great Christian hope. Because it is our great Christian hope, many Christians cross themselves when saying the line in the Nicene Creed, "I believe in the resurrection of the dead." Crossing ourselves while confessing this line reminds us that  I will be resurrected only through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection three days later. Peter in his first epistle reminds us that our new birth is directly tied with Jesus' resurrection. Peter writes, "He [Jesus] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..." (1 Peter 1:3). Thus, we may join our voices with Paul and proclaim “O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55).
If you have lost someone to the sting of death, God wants to comfort you: blessed are you who mourn. Because of the resurrection we have in Jesus Christ we will see our friends again. We will feel the warm embrace of a spouse again. We will hear our father or mother laugh again. You will see your child smile again. For those of us who are in Christ, God has promised to raise us up on the last day in the resurrection where we will be reunited with those whom death has prematurely claimed. Because of the sting of death our joy has been turned to sorrow, but in Jesus Christ our sorrow is turned into joy (Psalm 30:5). We are truly blessed, indeed.

Monday, October 10, 2016

St. Augustine's 3 Categories of Christian Worship

In St. Augustine's correspondence to Januarius (Letter 54) he lays out in three categories the things that guide Christian worship of our Lord. The first category is things directly found in scripture, the second is the apostolic tradition, and the third is adiaphora or things indifferent.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Physicalness of Salvation - The Presentation of Christ in the Temple

"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel."

Today, we celebrate the "Presentation of Christ in the Temple," also called the "Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary."

The Nunc Dimmitis (so named because of the first two words in the Latin translation) are the words Simeon proclaims when he sees the Christ child (see Luke 2:29-32). God had promised Simeon that he would lay eyes on the promised Messiah before he died. This man stares at baby Jesus and can actually say "mine eyes have seen thy salvation."

I don't know about you, but I don't usually think of Salvation as being something physical. I think many Christians would think of salvation as an event -- the event of a man dying on a cross or the event of atonement.Yet, here in the gospel of Luke, the Bible declares that salvation is physical and walking around -- salvation is found in the physical body of Jesus Christ. If Simeon can look at baby Jesus and utter this provocative phrase, "mine eyes have seen thy salvation," then that means that salvation is located spatially, in tangible things. Salvation is located in the person of Jesus Christ.

By extension, wherever Jesus is -- wherever his body is -- we may join our voices with Simeon and locate salvation there. Where does Jesus claim his body is located? There are 3 places.