my miscellany

Epiphany 3, 2019 — 27 Jan 19

Epiphany 3, 2019

RCL Year C Epiphany 3
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, and 8-10, Psalm 19, I Corinthians 12:12-31a,
Saint Luke 4:14-21

Christians are not superstitious: we believe in God’s Providence, the working out of God’s will in history and in our lives while we have the choice to be for God or against God. We are not surprised when Jesus reads, from the scroll of Isaiah, the salvation God brings to captives, the blind, and the oppressed, and then goes on to say for himself, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”[1]

Similarly I should not be surprised when, on the day of our Annual Meeting, God’s Providence has seen to it that we read Saint Paul’s great description of the Body of Christ, the Church. He uses the image of a body to explain and to describe Christ’s relationship with believers. And that relationship is this. Each of us is part of him, and he is part of all of us. Using Saint Paul’s image, the hand is not the eye, and the head is not the feet, but, together, the hand, the eye, the head, and the feet are parts of the one body. The body needs each of those parts to function.

When we think of the parish as the body, we see that we are as different and as diverse as those body parts. But each of us is part of Christ. Not all are apostles; not all are prophets; not all are teachers; but all of us are to allow the apostles, the prophets, and the teachers to follow their calling.  None of us should stand in the way of anyone’s manifestation of the Spirit.  Each one of us should encourage each other to discover and to use our spiritual gifts for the building up of the church.  We are a large-enough congregation, I think, to have represented in our number the gifts we need.  What we need to do is to try to encourage each one of us to use her or his gifts for the glory of God and for the building up of the church.

“If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?”[2]  You see what I mean.  If the whole body were worshippers and worshippers only, where would the Sunday School be? Where would the Vestry be? Where would Seasons of Love be? We want to get to that point where Saint Paul’s understanding of the community of faith, offering and relying on each member’s gifts, is fully realized. In the working out of God’s Providence we want to say about the Body of Christ, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”[3]

[1] Saint Luke 4:21.

[2] 1 Corinthians 12:17.

[3] Saint Luke 4:21.

Epiphany 2, 2019 — 20 Jan 19

Epiphany 2, 2019

RCL Year C Epiphany 2
Isaiah 62:1-5, Psalm 36:5-10, I Corinthians 12:1-11, Saint John 2:1-11

“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”[1]

The Gospel of John is constructed upon a sequence of Jesus’ signs—the word Saint John uses to describe the wondrous deeds of Jesus. The changing of the water into wine at Cana is the first of those signs, and, as the first, it is the least of those signs, because they build in importance and significance until the last sign Jesus performs: the raising of Lazarus. Taken all together, this sequence of signs presents a progressive revelation of the glory of God’s only Son who comes among us to reveal the Father and then returns in glory to the Father. The purpose of the sequence of signs Saint John explicitly declares in chapter twenty of his Gospel: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”[2]

This sequence of signs has power to bring us to believe, because only God can do them. God makes wine every day from water. Rain falls and waters the vines. With sunshine and the proper climate, the vines produce grapes, which are harvested and crushed. The natural process of fermentation goes forward according to the natural laws God continues to sustain, and, in time, rainwater yields to wine. God changes water into wine every day.

What Jesus does at the wedding in Cana of Galilee is to short-circuit the natural process. He does what God does, but he does it more quickly and dramatically. The short-circuiting shows that the doer is the same doer of the natural process. And, here in this Gospel, the short-circuiting shows that Jesus is God.

Through this miracle, Jesus is speaking to us, as he always does through the Gospel.  He’s telling us that when our wells run dry we should talk to him, just as his blessed Mother did.  When your party’s fizzled, or your life is running dry, or when you’ve run out of gas or energy, or when you’re discouraged, you should talk to the Lord.  If he can change water into wine, he can change despair into hope.  If he can save a wedding reception in Cana two thousand years ago, he can put a little umph into your life.  But you have to talk to him, and you have to let him, just as his blessed Mother did. Expect Jesus to do what God does. Expect him to push along the natural process to its fruitful conclusion, and coöperate with him.

The natural process that God has put into motion by bringing you to life is a good work that God wants to continue and to prosper. The One who changes water into wine every day can bring you to your perfection in his sight. Why would we not run headlong into his love and into “the well of life,” as the Psalmist calls it?[3] “So shall your God rejoice over you,” as Isaiah prophesied so long ago.[4]

[1] Saint John 2:1-11.

[2] Saint John 20:30-31.

[3] Psalm 36:9.

[4] Isaiah 62:5.

Epiphany 1: The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2019 — 13 Jan 19

Epiphany 1: The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2019

RCL Year C Epiphany 1
Isaiah 43:1–7, Psalm 29, Acts 8:14-17, Saint Luke 3:15-17 and 21-22

At the Vestry Meeting directly after this service, I shall announce that the Deacon, as I asked him at the last meeting, has made an arrangement for the Bishop to visit this parish. The Visitation will be on the sixteenth of June, which is Trinity Sunday, a very auspicious day.

I elevate this announcement to the homily, because the Lesson today from Acts exactly concerns the circumstance of the people the Bishop is likely to Confirm that day. And that circumstance is this. The people I know that have expressed interest in Confirmation are like the new Christians in Samaria in Acts: they have been Baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and they have not yet received the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands of the apostles or the successors to the apostles. The Lesson exactly addresses the relationship between Baptism and Confirmation. And it clearly addresses the importance of Confirmation after Baptism.

Which brings me to the Baptism of the Lord Jesus at the hands of John the Baptist that is the subject of today and today’s Gospel. In Advent we at Good Shepherd administered Baptism to an infant on a Sunday when John the Baptist was the focal point. In the homily that day I sharply distinguished the baptism of John from Christian Baptism, a distinction clear in the Gospel today. And I do not intend to go over that distinction again.

But John’s baptism of Jesus raises again, as it always does, the question why Jesus undergoes it. We can always say that Jesus does it to “fulfill all righteousness.” And today I want to specify a particular meaning of fulfilling all righteousness.

There is a sacramental principle that in participating in the sacraments, any of the sacraments, we respond to God’s call to meet God in the sacrament. We do something simple and ordinary and physical, and we respond to God’s promise to meet us there. That is why Jesus undergoes John’s baptism. He does something simple and ordinary and physical to answer God’s call to be in word and deed God’s Son. The outcome you heard in the Gospel. After the baptism, the Holy Spirit descends and the heavenly voice declares, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”[1]

And so it is with us. In the Eucharist, and in Baptism, and in Confirmation, as in any of the sacraments, we respond to God, and we should respond with an intention of our will. We respond by making a choice. You should do this every time you receive Holy Communion. You should do this today, and I give you an intention to use if you like. When you receive Holy Communion, declare to God that you intend to respond to God’s will and God’s plan for you in every circumstance in your lives. For that is what Jesus does when he receives John’s baptism. And if you declare this intention, and keep it, God’s light will become your light, and your life will be light to all of those around you.

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”[2]

[1] Saint Luke 3:22.

[2] Saint Matthew 5:16.

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