Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Good Friday Sermon

It has been my custom for many years to include at least one ancient sermon into my offerings for Lent.  This year I reworked a sermon by St. Augustine of Hippo that I preached on Good Friday.  I hope you find it useful...

The passion of our Lord Jesus gives us the confidence of eternal life. But it also gives us a lesson in the endurance of suffering.

With these two things, eternal life and endurance, is there anything which the hearts of the faithful may not conquer through the grace of God? For it was not enough that the Only Son of God, co-eternal from the beginning with the Father, should be born among us, as one of us, but he was even willing to die at the hands of those whom he created.

With this in mind, eternal life which God promises us for the future is great, but what God has already done for us in Christ is greater still. Who can doubt that he will give us his life, since he has already given us his death? And why should it be that we are so slow to believe that we will one day live with God? After all, a much more incredible thing has already happened…God has died for us.

For who is this Jesus unless he is that which, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God?” This Word became flesh and dwelt among us. As the Son of God, he was incapable of dying for us, and yet he chose to take on our nature. In doing so, he was able to experience our death in order that we might experience his life. He shared our humanity that one day we might share his divinity.

In this way, Christ entered into an exchange with us mortals. In this mutual sharing between us and Christ, he died for what was ours, that we might live for what was his. Because of this, rather than feeling shame when we look at his suffering on the Cross, we should with joy embrace the life which he offers. For by assuming the death he found within us, he promised to give us the life found within him.

Christ Jesus loved us so much, that what we deserved because of sin, he who was without sin, suffered on our behalf. Surely then, Christ who justifies sinners will give us what justice demands, and he whose promise is always faithful will give us the reward he has won.

So my sisters and brothers, let us proclaim without fear, and even more so, let us shout from the roof tops, that Jesus was crucified for us. Let us share this not trembling, but rejoicing, not with regret but with boosting. For as the Apostle Paul said, “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Snow on Ash Wednesday

The 11am Ash Wednesday liturgy has just ended and I am back in my office reflecting on how the day has gone thus far. The day began with a 7am liturgy. Next I drove the kids to school, and dropped my wife at her office. After I gave the dog his morning walk it was back at church to prepare and serve the 10am liturgy. Somewhere along the way I heard the news that the oldest member of my family, my great-aunt Louise, had died this morning. She was 94.

This is not the first time a family member has died on or near Ash Wednesday. Thirteen years ago my grandfather died in the early morning hours the day after Ash Wednesday. Both of these deaths force me into reflecting on my own mortality on this day of days.

As a professed and practicing Christian, this day reminds me over and again of the terminal nature of the human condition. Psalm 103, which is appointed for the day reads as such…

13 As a father cares for his children, *so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

14 For he himself knows whereof we are made; * he remembers that we are but dust.

15 Our days are like the grass; * we flourish like a flower of the field;

16 When the wind goes over it, it is gone, * and its place shall know it no more.

17 But the merciful goodness of the LORD endures for ever on those who fear him, *
     and his righteousness on children's children;

18 On those who keep his covenant * and remember his commandments and do them.

We remember our mortality on this day, not to sulk in self-pity or despair, but to be reminded that as fragile and vulnerable creatures we are always in need of the one who created us. We are always in need of His nurture, care, wisdom and assurance. As the beginning of the Psalm 103 reminds…

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul, * and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, * and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins * and heals all your infirmities;

4 He redeems your life from the grave * and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

5 He satisfies you with good things, * and your youth is renewed like an eagle's.

It’s been snowing for two hours now. And although I’d like it to be spring, I know we are still in winter, and surrounded by the signs of sleep and death. As Lent begins, I seen my mortal nature wrapped up in a radical dependency upon the mercy and grace of God. As the snow covers the ground, I hope God’s grace will cover me and all who share in this earthly pilgrimage. For where there is grace, there is hope. And where there is hope, there is life. Rest in peace, Louise, and rise in Glory.