Sunday, March 17, 1996

Fourth Sunday in Lent - Year A - 1996

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down
from heaven to be the true bread which giveth life to the
world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us,
and we in him; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the
Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Preface of Lent

A reading from the First Book of Samuel. 1 Samuel 16:1-13
1 The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons." 2 And Samuel said, "How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me." And the LORD said, "Take a heifer with you, and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' 3 And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me him whom I name to you." 4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, "Do you come peaceably?" 5 And he said, "Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice." And he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD'S anointed is before him." 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart." 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one." 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one." 10 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, "The LORD has not chosen these." 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?" And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here." 12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. And the LORD said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is he." 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.
The Word of the Lord.

23 Dominus regit me Page 612

1 The LORD is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.
3 He revives my soul *
and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.
4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those
who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days
of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

A reading from the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians. Ephesians 5:1-14
1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not associate with them, 8 for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; 13 but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. 14 Therefore it is said, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light."
The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John. John 9:1-38
1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3 Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." 6 As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, 7 saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, "Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?" 9 Some said, "It is he"; others said, "No, but he is like him." He said, "I am the man." 10 They said to him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" 11 He answered, "The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash'; so I went and washed and received my sight." 12 They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know." 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see." 16 Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was a division among them. 17 So they again said to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet." 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, 19 and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" 20 His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." 22 His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, "He is of age, ask him." 24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner." 25 He answered, "Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see." 26 They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" 27 He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?" 28 And they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." 30 The man answered, "Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." 34 They answered him, "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?" And they cast him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of man?" 36 He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" 37 Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you." 38 He said, "Lord, I believe"; and he worshiped him.
The Gospel of the Lord.

"Do you believe in the Son of man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you." He said, "Lord, I believe"; and he worshiped him.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

There are two phrases that I want to draw your attention to in this morning's Gospel reading. The first is Jesus' question, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" and the reply of the healed man, "Lord, I believe".

This is an Incarnational exchange, in that Jesus refers to his complete and utter humanity, by his self-discription, "Son of Man", while the man responds to Jesus' complete and utter Divinity, by addressing Him as "Lord" as in "My Lord and my God!".

Last week we hear Jesus tell the Samarian woman that, "God is Spirit, and that those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." But there is more to than that, and that more to it-ness can be seen in the Incarnation.

While Christmas is now more than two months past, the Incarnation is also a critical aspect of the Season of Lent. If we do recognize the complete humanity of Christ as well as the complete Divinity, that is: That Jesus was fully man and fully God, then we cannot understand that he was tempted in every way as we were.

It is important for us to know that the Son of God faced real temptations, and that as a complete human man, He knew not just temptations to sin, but pain, suffering and loss. He knew all that we knew, suffered as we suffer, and lived as we live--except that He did not sin. He was and is the perfect man.

Very often, I think, we may be tempted to view our beliefs as Christian as something merely of the Spiritual realm, but something that is apart from the flesh. However, Christianity differs from all other religions that I know of in that it is both spiritual and physical.

If Christianity was merely spiritual, then we can make no sense of God's Creation. We cannot pray for physical health, we cannot believe that what God has Created in the Universe is good and beautiful. But what God has Created is both Good and Beautiful--and that includes each and everyone of us. We are part of God's Creation and He not only calls us Good, but He calls us His.

And to show us how good we are to be, He became one of us--the first fruits of the New Creation. If God had not become man, then we would still be searching for, and waiting for, someone to come and show us the way to everlasting life. And if God had not died as one of us and for us, then we could not know what perfection He wants for us. But if God had not died and then been raised BODILY from the dead, then we would not know that the Body is important, or that the Creation is important, or that when He promises everlasting life--He does not mean a collective consciousness, or as ghosts or as disembodied souls.

God Created us to be alive, and part of our being alive is possessing a physical body which is to be at unity with the soul.

Consider the alternative:

A friend of mine recently told me of a video tape which he saw. A theologian of the academic variety put forth, as truth, these "facts". He said,
Jesus' true father was Joseph, not God.
Mary was not a Virgin.
Jesus was born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem.
Jesus did die on the Cross but was not raised from the dead.
And finally, that:
The story of the Resurrection is to be taken only figuratively, and really means that He lives on in our hearts, but is not truly alive.

If that theologian is right, than what have we? What hope have we? What purpose have we? The answer to those questions is that we have nothing but this life. We have no hope, and there is no purpose at all to our lives. We cannot believe the Bible. There has been no Messiah, and never will be one. There has been no sacrifice for our sins, and death reigns supreme, even over Jesus, but especially over us.

Fortunately, I can assure you that the theologian was wrong. I have no proof that would stand up in court, but neither does he. However, I have faith, as I trust you have faith. The faith we share often presents itself to us a passion for truth, and a passion for righteousness.

In fact, my friend who called and told me about the video tape was so unsettled about the contents, that he said that he thought that he might leave the Church, and go and find a simple Bible Church, where he could at least here the Bible read and preached and believed. There may be several here today who have changed churches in an attempt to find that "perfect Church" where there is no heresy, that the Word of God contained in Scripture is viewed as the ultimate authority, and where interpretations of His Holy Word do not change to fit our desires, but remain loyal to what we were taught as children.

If you have been, or perhaps are looking for such a Church, then I have some good news and some bad news for you.

The good news is that anyone who is searching for the perfect Church may be assured that their desire is a Holy one, that it is an indication of faith, and that faith is alive and passionate. The bad news is that you will not find that church by taking a passive role.

When God became man, he showed us that the material world, including are bodies, are important to Him. He showed us that what we believe is not enough. Our souls alone cannot save us because our bodies are also in need of salvation. It is, after all, our bodies which die as a result of sin. Therefore God does not allow us to become content with our belief and passively wait out our time to die and then wait for His coming again in glory.

Rather, God gives a passionate faith. It causes us to want to act and react. Not in any passive way, but pro-actively, so that we work out our faith with our souls and bodies.

Our passions are the cause of much turmoil in our lives. Passion, by definition, suggests that we are not unchanging, and that we do react, and adapt, and have effect as well as being, ourselves effected by the outside. The devil knows that we will react to stimulus and he uses stimulus to tempt us to react in unholy, unnatural ways. But God also knows that we are passionate, and he will use our passions to his purpose.

I fear that very often our God given passions are interpreted by us as frustrations. And that the only passions we feel comfortable about acting upon are those which are used by the devil. Those are the easy passions to follow. But God wants us to change as well, and His change for us is to turn away from the passions of the world, the flesh, and the devil and heed the Holy Passions he gives us. A Passion for truth, a passion for righteousness, a passion for right thinking about God, a passion for unity in the Church, a passion for the forgiveness of sins, a passion for live beyond death, and a passion for perfection.

We cannot, as individuals, bring righteousness in to the world. We cannot, by ourselves, bring about only true teachings. We cannot, alone, bring about unity in the Church, and we cannot, alone, bring about our eternal, and perfected bodies. But these are our Holy Passions which are a result of our nature as God's Creatures, and a result of our faith.

Therefore, we are to act on these passions, not mope about in frustration--but to actually do something about it. We are to live our faith, defend our faith, teach our faith, learn our faith, and believe our faith--and to do these things it requires a body with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear, a mouth ready to speak, and hands ready to help, or make, or soothe, or whatever God is calling us to do.

Consider another indication of the importance that God has shown us in Creation as well as in His Church. We acknowledge seven sacraments which God has given us for our spiritual as well as physical welfare. The collect for the day tells us that Jesus is the True bread from heaven. This is a Eucharistic teaching, based upon Jesus' own words in John's Gospel when he tells us that unless we eat his Body and Drink His Blood, we have no life in us.

SO God gives His Body in the Consecrated Bread, and His Blood in the Consecrated Wine. These are material things which contain a spiritual grace. Baptism, for which Lent is, in part a preparation for many, uses that matter of water to cleans us of spiritual and physical sins. Again, we have the material used by God to bring about the spiritual. Even our own flesh is used as the material agent for bringing about the spiritual grace of reconciliation, of confirmation and of ordination by the outstretched hand of the priest of bishop.

That God's grace is imparted through the use of matter is the story of Creation, and the story of the Incarnation where Grace personified took on our flesh. But perhaps the most obvious, yet most overlooked, grace filled matter in the universe is the Christian. All of us are precious material beings in God's eyes, and yet we are spiritual beings as well. He created us that way, because that is how he would become.

Consider that in 1996, God the Son remains both flesh and spirit, both God and Man (albeit, perfected man). His body was indeed raised from the dead, and His body indeed ascended into heaven where it remains--living and reigning at the Right hand of the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever.

We are part of his Body, now, as we are each individual members of the Church of which He is the Head. But then, after the final Resurrection, we shall be united to God, through the Son who is one of us, and who was, and is, and ever shall be God.

The Passion of Christ made a difference. By being one of us he could be tempted and yet not sin. By being one of us, He could die, although He did not deserve to die. By being one of us he could be Raised, and Ascend to the Father so that we could follow Him as he has asked, and as He has called to each of us.

Our Passions for righteousness and Truth and Unity, and Holiness are all Holy Passions, wrought of God, and yet we cannot achieve them by going from Church to Church, or by changing denominations, or by any other passive means. Righteousness, Truth, Purity, Unity, and Holiness are to be found in the Church, but only in His Church where grace filled people do not just know the Holy Passion, but where grace filled people act on these passions and fight for righteousness, truth, unity and holiness by beginning with themselves. After this, the faithful will be raised in the next life to that perfection to which we are driven my God and by the Holy Passions he gives us.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Sacraments. Empty Tomb. Follow me. God now, in 1996, is still in the flesh (Ascension).

Copyright © 1996 W. Crews Giles

Sunday, March 3, 1996

Second Sunday in Lent - Year A - 1996

Second Sunday in Lent

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious
to all who have gone astray from thy ways, and bring them
again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and
hold fast the unchangeable truth of thy Word, Jesus Christ
thy Son; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and
reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A reading from the book Genesis. Genesis 12:1-8
1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.” 4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions which they had gathered, and the persons that they had gotten in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. 8 Thence he removed to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.
The Word of the Lord.
33 Exultate, justi (Verses 12-22, begining at the bottom of page 626)

12 Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD! *
happy the people he has chosen to be his own!
13 The LORD looks down from heaven, *
and beholds all the people in the world.
14 From where he sits enthroned he turns his gaze *
on all who dwell on the earth.
15 He fashions all the hearts of them *
and understands all their works.
16 There is no king that can be saved by a mighty army; *
a strong man is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The horse is a vain hope for deliverance; *
for all its strength it cannot save.
18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon those who fear him, *
on those who wait upon his love,
19 To pluck their lives from death, *
and to feed them in time of famine.
20 Our soul waits for the LORD; *
he is our help and our shield.
21 Indeed, our heart rejoices in him, *
for in his holy Name we put our trust.
22 Let your loving-kindness, O LORD, be upon us, *
as we have put our trust in you.

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans. Romans 4:1-17
1 What then shall we say about Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. 5 And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6 So also David pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin.” 9 Is this blessing pronounced only upon the circumcised, or also upon the uncircumcised? We say that faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received circumcision as a sign or seal of the righteousness which he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, 12 and likewise the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but also follow the example of the faith which our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. 13 The promise to Abraham and his descendants, that they should inherit the world, did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants—not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
The Word of the Lord.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John John 3:1-17
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ 8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can this be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
The Gospel of the Lord.

Second Sunday in Lent
Year A

Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

I want to begin this morning by drawing your attention to irony. The set up for this was provided last Monday night on the ABC News show, Night Line. There was a man whose name I missed, but the title which was flashed on the screen across his chest was, "Spokesman for the Episcopal Church". There was no sign of a halo, so I was skeptical from the start.

I will do my best to quote him. This may not be verbatim, but it is as close as my memory allows. This spokesman said, "The Episcopal Church is not a church which requires any strict adherence to any Creeds."

My skepticism proved to be justified. The man said this just as the Church has entered the Season of Lent -- a time which is traditionally used for preparing those who are being taught the faith for baptism. The words of our collect this morning came to mind, in that we ask God to bring us to, "embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of thy Word, Jesus Christ" and those words seemed particularly relevant as I watched and listened the other night.

As an ordained priest in this Church, I too am a spokesman for the faith of the Church. And at my ordination, I gave my solemn vow that I would "be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them."

The doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church received them can be identified as the Scripture, its interpretation through Holy Tradition and the Creeds (Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian) which are the statements which represent the faith of the True Church. I am also bound to declarations made by ecumenical councils.

In addition to this, the Bishop asked me, at my ordination, if I "will endeavor so to minister the Word of God and the sacraments of the New Covenant, that the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received?" To which I answered, "I will."

Finally, the bishop prayed to the Lord over me, in part, these words, "Make him a faithful pastor, a patient teacher, and a wise councilor... that your people may be strengthen and your Name glorified in all the world." All of the people in the congregation responded, "Amen".

It for those reasons, in God's name, and in keeping with my ordination vows that I do not just remind myself of my own obligations as a preist but all of our obligations to God and his Church as baptized Christians.

In ancient times, Lent was the time in which those who were learning the faith of the Church underwent their final, rigorous catechism. In those days, the people not yet baptized nor confirmed were ushered out of the Church just before the Offertory because only those instructed in the faith and sealed by the bishop were allowed even to witness the Holy Mysteries which are to be celebrated here in a few minutes.

While the priest or bishop said Mass, those being instructed went to another place where their instruction would continue. They would be prayed for day and night, they would receive anointing of their ears so that they could hear and understand what they were being taught. They would have their lips anointed so that they could answer correctly the questions of the catechists. They were asked again and again if they were willing to leave behind them the world of their former life and enter into the new life in Christ Jesus. Their sponsors were asked if they could confirm that the catechumens had manifest a desire to receive the True faith and the Sacraments of the Church by amending their lives in accordance to the Church's teachings.

All of these things were done to insure that those who accepted the Sacrament of Baptism, and subsequently, the other Sacraments of the Church, would endeavor to be faithful members. Also, in the ancient days, to allow a non-believer into the Church was to put the faithful in jeopardy of being turned over to the authorities who had made Christianity illegal.

So little was known by the world of the faith and practice of the Church that rumor had it that we practiced cannibalism, and orgies. These were undoubtedly based upon whispers of the eating the Body and Blood of Christ, and the agape feasts, or love feasts as the Mass was then called.

But the Church was zealous, and sincere in teaching the faith, and the people were, as individual members equally zealous and sincere. And at the actual Baptism, the statement of faith required by all to be Baptized was the same as it is now.

If you were Baptized, as I was, under the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, you or your sponsors for you, were asked this question, "Dost thou believe all of the Articles of the Christian Faith, as contained in the Apostles' Creed?" To which the response was, "I do."

If you were Baptized under the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, you were asked directly if you believed in that Faith, and by answering, you and the bishop or priest recited the Apostles' Creed together.

In both Rites we were charged, and accented to the charge, to turn away from the enemy which is the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.

To believe in the Apostles Creed and to renounce the enemy requires that you know the faith of the Apostles, and that you recognize that the ways of the world, the ways of the flesh, and the ways of the devil are at odds with the way of new life to which we are to be born as Christians.

After Baptism, we can no longer look to our culture for what is right and what is wrong. We can no longer look to our society to solve our problems, we can no longer look to our own desires to determine our needs, and our duty. And we can no longer trust in our hearts to lead us to righteousness, because our hearts are subject to the temptation of the devil.

Therefore, we have only one recourse, and that is said well in the 1979 rite of Baptism:

Will you continue in the apostle's teachings and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

The response to that is, "I will with God's help". Not just, I will, but I will, with God's help.

And if you have answered that, or had that answer given for you, then I charge you to remember that answer, and to be true to that answer, and attempt to live by that answer. We need to be reminded that our baptism did not complete the work of Salvation in us, but rather it only began the work of Salvation with in us, and with God's help, that work will be completed.

We must renew our zeal, we must know the true urgency of our state in life, and be aware of the consequences of not striving to keep those vows. And most of all, we must, in this season of Lent, prepare ourselves anew for the Celebration of New Life in Jesus Christ which is our joy and our hope to witness first in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

That "Spokesman for the Episcopal Church" may have spoken for an administrative branch of the Church, but he did not speak for Christ, nor the true Church, nor to the teaching of the Apostles, nor Scripture.

In our Book of Common Prayer are the three Creeds of the Church, declared as Truth by Ecumenical Council, and to which we are indeed strictly to adhere. But before we can adhere to these Creeds, we must know these Creeds. And to know these Creeds which are based upon Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, we must also know what Holy Scripture says and what Holy Tradition says.

Therefore, this Lent, I urge you to pray over the vows of your Baptism, from whichever Book of Common Prayer they came, and then prayerfully determine what you need to be doing to be faithful to your vows and faithful to the Body of the Church of which Christ Jesus is the head.

The Epistle Lesson for this morning is the story of Abraham as understood by Paul and Inspired by the Holy Spirit. In it we learn that Abraham was declared righteous by God before he had any works of righteousness. Instead, Abraham had only faith at that time. Yet great works abounded through him, because of his faith, and because of the righteousness which God had accounted him.

So our duty does not end with our faith alone, but the expectation is that we are to live out our faith. I want to share with you a quote from the footnotes of a study Bible I use. It is called the Navarre Bible, and it is speaking of the Abraham story. It says:
The entire story of Abraham, especially the episode where God makes him the promise, is an example of how God goes about things: he draws the human soul out of its state of ignorance and then leads it on towards faith and moves it to accept a supernatural mission of unimagined scope.

God drawing our souls out of ignorance and then leading it toward faith may seem backwards. You may want to say that first comes faith, and only then does ignorance depart. But I believe that the two go together.

So often we think of God and His works as miraculous, and therefore, being miraculous, we should not expect them to make sense to us. But I believe that our faith, being holy and miraculous, is not beyond comprehension. Rather, I believe that our faith is perfect reason. I believe it makes since in a way that nothing else can. I believe it is the ultimate wisdom, and I believe that our attempts to learn it and understand it make us wise, and increase our understanding, and thus strengthen our faith.

If we strive to learn our faith, and endeavor to understand our faith, then our faith will lead our souls to, "accept a supernatural mission of unimagined scope." In other words, an informed faith, and a wise faith will lead us to be the miracle workers. It will allow God to work through us things unimagined, and supernatural.

And it is not just to declare us as righteous, that God seeks for us, but rather it to make us supernatural, and to make us better than we can imagine, and this we do following our Lord who while flesh, is also supernatural, and whose righteousness is beyond our imagination. It is to be like that we are called in our baptism, and it is to follow Him that we are charged.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Romans 4:3: Gen 15:6. And this is just after Melk. blessed Abraham after bringing bread and wine, and immediately after God first made the covenant with him. But Abraham’s faith was tried and purified through the offering of the blood of his son, and by many other works of faith. See v 10.
Romans 4:7: Psalm 32:1-2
Romans 4:10: Faith before circumcision. Thus stress is concerns works of the Law, as opposed to works of charity, works of a virtuous soul, works of repentance, works of devotion and works of piety (godliness). Romans 4:11: “reckoned”=counted up and concluded, as one would an inventory. This speaks of One who tallies what we have done, and said, and the grand total is such that Abraham won. It was faith that tilted the scales in God’s favor— they both won!
Navarre Bible: The entire story of Abraham, especially the episode where God makes him the promise, is an example of of how God goes about things: he draws the human soul out of its state of ignorance and then leads it on towards faith and moves it to accept a supernatural mission of unimagined scope. Romans 4:17: God’s Covenant is not a contract! As Peter Toon+ stressed, God’s Covenant is a declaration. I will be your God and you will be my people. There is no “if”. The “if” only comes in when His blessings are to be given or withheld. The “if” has to do with judgment, but the Covenant is not contingent upon man—it, like righteousness, is a gift, and one that is made by His, and only His, declaring it to be so.
Thus, the One who brings nothingness to existence with His Word, is the one who, gives us salvation, by faith, through His Word—that is Christ Jesus.

Copyright © 1996 W. Crews Giles