TIME - A SERMON ON 1 CORINTHIANS 7:29-31 AND MARK 1:14-20 - BY REV. LANCE SCHMITZ, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
1 Corinthians 7:29-31 I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
Mark 1:14-20 After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Have you ever heard song lyrics that drove you crazy or gets stuck in your head? For some it might be Copacabana by Barry Manilow gets stuck in your head. For others it might be that for some reason wildly popular 90's song Barbie Girl. For parents it might be the omnipresent grating tune baby shark.
You're all welcome for now I've given you something that's stuck in your head. True confession now the song that vexes me is a tune covered by the rolling stones “Time is on my side.” When ole Mick Jagger sings “Tiiiiime is on my side, oh yes it is” it becomes and ear-worm for a couple of days, but I also hate that lyric.
I'm not usually one who begrudges artistic discourse or poetry, however this time I'm going to, this lyric troubles me because Time is not on your side, time is a relentless unfeeling machine that is moving in one direction forward, it waits for no one and nary a one of us will escape its clutches.
We are each and all time travelers, exciting isn't it. We don't have to have a suped up Delorean; we are all moving into the future.
None of us has power over time, but it does have power over us.
We have all learned, especially this last year with the coming of Covid, that time is a relative affair.
It feels like to some that March 2020 was either 17 years ago or a month ago and depending on the day our feelings about that flip flop.
Time is an unflinching machine that barrels along unfazed by the goings on of our lives. People move in and out of our lives, our kids grow older. Heck we all grow older; for some of us our hair thins or grays; for most of us our waistlines change too.
The passage of time keeps rolling along utterly unfazed and we ride along with it.
We all muck about all the time trying to make some meaning with of our lives and attempting to find some joy and make an impact on the world around us. Time is a compelling force that informs us and shapes us and motivates us to do something in this world.
We all want to use our time that we have before us wisely, and make the most out of it because that's what we humans do. We try our best to make and find some meaning in the world, because time is a finite commodity.
In our reading from 1st Corinthians today we have just a short 3 verse snippet/snack that is couched in a longer section about how these early Christians thought Jesus was coming back and coming back quick. They believed with an urgency that the time they had left was a quickly evaporating commodity.
So in turn they were trying to figure out how to live as a responsible people with the short time they thought they had left. They were giving and receiving advice as how to fill their lives with what, as they understood it; the short time they had left....
They wanted to be useful and authentic faithful disciples spending their lives to build up the Kingdom of God.
This is a message we can and should hear too. It is all to easy to lose sight and get distracted. Paul was exhorting the Corinthian community to focus on the important tasks at hand because time was being summed up in Jesus.
This early Christian community while they weren't necessarily correct about an impending return of Christ, they were wholly accurate in their understanding that the world was and is transforming because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The world is ever and always changing and God calls Christians of every time and every place to be of use to God and others in the midst of this change.
We live in strange times, and we always have. We live as resident aliens, citizens of another place, who are seeking to cooperate with God in the building of a new world....
Time is always passing away, time is always of the essence especially to we Christian people and we each moment have an ability/opportunity to choose how then we want to live, what then will be our legacy, how we will craft our story, what then shall we do to build up the kingdom of God.
Do not lose hope, do not be discouraged, do not be overcome; the God of the universe as most perfectly revealed in Christ Jesus is still asking and working through God's church to build a new world of light, and hope, and love to take the place of one with an dangerous addiction to self destruction, and unfettered greed, and wanton violence.
Time still marches on, it always has and it always will, we can't fight that. Time however can never take away how we choose to live. .So many folks have rendered judgment upon the church as self obsessed ancient artifice of a bygone era that is wholly irrelevant ; and that judgment is well earned
So here is my hope both now and always Church; for me and for you choose the way of Jesus.
Choose to be a people of flagrant hospitality, practitioners of mercy in a merciless world, outposts of hope in a world of misery, people of peace in a world committed to violence...
Every time we choose this way, it gets a little easier, each time we decide to treat others as we would wish to be treated a little more healing takes place, every deed of mercy practiced heals others and the church.
Time marches along, we can choose to spend the time we have left, whether it be long or short, cooperating with God to build a something beautiful or we can choose not to; the choice is ours. They way of Jesus Christ is the most compelling answer to so many questions and pains our world has. How then shall we live?
~ Rev. Lance Schmitz, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
A hammerbeam is a timber truss allowing a roof to span a greater distance than the length of any individual timber. This type of construction supports our Cathedral’s roof. Hammerbeams are supported by curved braces from the wall, and hammer posts are built on top to support the rafters. The ends of hammerbeams are often decorated, and the ram’s heads in our Cathedral serve this function. The most famous ram in the Old Testament is the one Abraham substituted for the sacrifice of Isaac. This ram, sacrificed in Isaac’s stead, is an image of Christ crucified in our place. The thicket in which the ram was entrapped is likened to Jesus’ crown of thorns. Rams also represented male fertility, and statues of rams were believed to make women fertile and ensure a family hearth’s happiness. Similarly, rams were used by the early Church to symbolize Christ’s spiritual fertility. Rams lead sheep, and St. Ambrose considered rams emblematic of the divine Word. Rams fighting with wolves and defending the sheep represented the war between Jesus and Satan for souls. Rams tend to butt their enemies, and ram’s heads were placed on the ends of “battering rams” during a siege.
~ Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
MINISTER'S VESTMENTS IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH - DR. GIL HAAS, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Three sacred ministers participate in a “solemn” mass - a celebrant (either priest or bishop), a deacon (which in this sense implies a role and not a holy order and can be a bishop, priest, or deacon), and a subdeacon (who can be of holy orders or a layperson). The deacon is assigned to read the Gospel and prepares the altar for the Eucharist. The subdeacon is assigned to read the Epistle, hold the Gospel book during the Gospel reading, and assist the deacon in preparing the Eucharistic table. The three ministers are assigned vestments peculiar to their office. A cope (derived from a Roman overcoat or cappa [signifying “topmost]) is a highly ornamented cloak worn by the celebrant during the processional and recessional. At the Eucharist, the celebrant dons a chasuble which is less decorated than a cope, but unlike the cope is of the liturgically correct color. The deacon wears a dalmatic (derived from a tunic worn in Dalmatia) of the liturgical color decorated with two horizontal and two vertical orphreys or colored bands. A subdeacon wears the slightly smaller tunicle (Latin word for “tunic”) of the liturgical color but with only one horizontal orphrey.
~ Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
“Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him. Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the perfect offering for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.” These “Comfortable Words” first appeared in the Anglican Prayer Book in 1549 and are present after the Confession in our Rite I service. In medieval masses, there was no General Confession since forgiveness was only possible at a private confession. Moreover, you could not receive eucharist unless you had been to confession. Prior to the Reformation, Eucharist was only offered on Easter, so people went to confession during Holy Week. Reformers desired weekly eucharists, so the general confession was introduced. The Comfortable Words underpinned the absolution that had just been announced.
~Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
"GOING PUBLIC" - GENESIS 1:1-5 AND MARK 1:4-11 - FR. JOSEPH ALSAY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
~Excerpts of a Sermon Delivered
The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay, Rector, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord
January 10, 2021
Genesis 1:1-5 and Mark 1:4-11
Well, the politics races of 2020-21 are finally done and we can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Right?
But, you have to admire those people who offer themselves for public service. Their private lives are scrutinized and analyzed. I’m thinking particularly of the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta the church of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, along with Jon Ossoff won the two Senate seats that were up for grabs in Georgia. His theological stances and prophetic role as pastor and preacher in the African-American Church was dissected and put under a microscope. Every word of his sermons where he dared to speak truth to power and to raise up the needs of those downtrodden were parsed and examined.
Perhaps we all have a private side and a public side. It raises the question, “Do you feel that your faith is too personal to discuss?” Are you unsure how others would react? Or is it something you have a hard time putting into words?
We normally think that of Jesus beginning his public ministry at about age thirty. Knowing that one’s life span was much shorter then, and that couples married very young, you wonder what Jesus was up to from his mid-teens to age thirty.
And then he goes public. He approaches John to be baptized, then there’s one of those defining, life-changing moments. The heavens are torn open. The Spirit of God descends like a dove. And God’s voice thunders forth: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
It’s an awesome moment. Was it public?
Did everyone hear it?
Or was it only for Jesus?
Was it a personal spiritual experience or a public manifestation, an epiphany?
Baptism isn’t just a family affair and a rite of passage. It is being incorporated into a new family of faith, the body of Christ.
It is going public.
The Rev. Dr. James Wallis is a well-known, progressive evangelical. Some of you recognize his book: God’s Politics” Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.” He talks about struggling as a teen-ager with his experience of Christianity as a very personal faith in Jesus and getting saved for heaven. He left the church for a while before he returned to a Christianity based in the Sermon on the Mount and a radical Jesus who inspired early Christians with a message of change that affected everything: personal, spiritual, political, economic.
Now the point Wallis makes is this: God is personal, but never private.
Baptism is only the beginning. It is for life. Its power shapes all our decisions and the way we look at the world. No wonder we return to our baptism throughout our lives.
That’s why during this Epiphanytide we will re-affirm our baptismal covenant. We commit ourselves to live among God’s faithful people.
We are meant to be together. To encourage and support one another in our life of faith. To challenge one another and to learn from one another.
In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? his last book before his assignation in 1968. He isolated himself from the demands of the civil rights movement, rented a house in Jamaica with no telephone, and labored over his final manuscript. In this prophetic work, he lays out his thoughts, plans, and dreams for America's future.
MLK, lifted up, as he did so many times before the Beloved Community of God. A community that Jesus spoke of. The community Jesus taught us to pray, and to work, and to labor for; that Beloved Community, that reign of God's love in our time and in our world.
A community devoid of chaos?
Last Wednesday, we watched the insurrection in this nation. The chaos of people, enraged by a web of lies they live in as if it were reality, attacking the Capitol, trying to overturn an election. For some, it was hard to believe. These were the things, some smugly thought, that happen in other places. Not here.
Maybe you, like me, despair at the chaos and hatred and violence spreading across our nation, trampling the vulnerable, and wonder where God’s Spirit is now?
Then I recall the words that were read earlier from the Hebrew Scriptures. How in the beginning God breathed over chaos and darkness and brought light and order into being. God created “Community from Chaos.” Worlds, stars, beings of all kinds were breathed into life by God. And that creation, filled with the very Breath of the eternal God, embodied God’s being.
When the Holy Spirit, the breath of the Triune God, breathes into this world, beauty and justice and hope and love and life happen.
Just because you don’t see the Spirit all the time doesn’t mean God isn’t breathing into our world today. God breathes over chaos and a beautiful creation is born. God breathes into Jesus and a mission to heal and save the world is begun.
That is our task. That is why God saves us. So that we might praise God and tell others about what God has done for the world in Jesus Christ.
To put it simply to live in the very same love we have experienced in Christ.
To seek the lost, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those who are in prison, welcome the stranger and the outcast, heal the sick, and bear witness to the one who loves us.
It is to work for justice- God’s justice- in the world.
It is to look for every possible opportunity to act with compassion, kindness, mercy and forgiveness in the course of our lives.
If we, as the baptized, as the church, as the body of Christ, truly live up to this calling- we will not only change the world, but people will take note of what we are doing!
~ Fr. Joseph C. Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
And now in the name of our loving, liberating, and life-giving God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
In another time of national crisis, another time of danger for our nation, in 1865 on March the fourth, Abraham Lincoln concluded his second inaugural address with these words:
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
Lincoln knew in that moment, in the moment of a national crisis, a moment of great danger, that such a moment was a moment of decision, when a nation, when a people must decide who shall we be? What kind of nation, what kind of people shall we be? A hundred years later, Martin Luther King faced the same reality. Who shall we be? The civil rights movement was waning. The great victories that had been won had been won. And yet now questions of poverty and economic despair and disparities raised an awesome specter on the nation. We were at war.
We were at war in another country, but there was war on our streets. The nation was deeply divided. Cities burned. There were riots. Riots at national conventions of political parties. The future of the nation was in question, and it was at that time that Dr. King realized that in moments of danger, a decision must be made. And he titled his last book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community. I believe as he believed, as Abraham Lincoln believed, as I believe you believe, that we must choose community. Chaos is not an option. Community is our only hope.
The truth is Dr. King spoke often of all that he did and labored for was for the purpose of realizing as much of the Beloved Community of God as it is possible on this earth. He spoke of Beloved Community, the Bible, the New Testament, Jesus spoke of the kingdom or the reign of God. Jesus taught us to pray, and to work, and to labor for that Beloved Community, that reign of God's love in our time and in our world, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth just as it is in heaven. Those are our marching orders from Jesus himself.
I am a follower of Jesus of Nazareth because I believe that his way of love and his way of life is the way of life for us all. I believe that unselfish, sacrificial love, love that seeks the good and the welfare and the well-being of others, as well as the self, that this is the way that can lead us and guide us to do what is just, to do what is right, to do what is merciful. It is the way that can lead us beyond the chaos to community.
Now, I know full well that this may to some sound naive, to others, idealistic, and I understand that. And yet, I want to submit that the way of love that leads to beloved community is the only way of hope for humanity. Consider the alternative. The alternative is chaos, not community. The alternative is the abyss of anarchy, of chaos, of hatred, of bigotry, of violence, and that alternative is unthinkable. We have seen nightmarish visions of that alternative. We saw it in Charlottesville just a few years ago when neo-Nazis marched through the streets of an American city, chanting, "Jews will not replace us." That alternative is unthinkable. We saw it in Minneapolis-St. Paul, where a public safety officer knelt with his knee on the neck of another human being. A child of God, just like he was, and snuffed out the breath of life that God gave him. The alternative is unthinkable.
And we have seen it this past Wednesday, when a monument to democracy, the Capitol of the United States of America was desecrated and violated with violence by vandals. Lives were lost. A nation was wounded. Democracy itself was threatened. My brothers and sisters, this way of love that Jesus taught us when he said, "Love the Lord your God, and your neighbor as yourself." This way of love that Moses taught even before Jesus. This way of unselfish, sacrificial love, it is the way to redeem a nation, to save a world. It is the way of hope for us all. But do not make the mistake of thinking that I speak of a sentimental and emotional love.
Jesus spoke of love most consistently the closer he got to the cross. This way of love is the way of sacrifice, the way of unselfishness, the way of selflessness, that seeks the good of the other as well as the self. And that is the way of the cross, which is the way of life. And if you don't believe me, ask another apostle of love. Not Dr. King, not Abraham Lincoln, ask Archbishop Tutu. Ask one who has given his life for the cause of God's love in the way of Jesus. Ask him; ask Nelson Mandela in your mind. Ask them what love looks like. They knew that the way of love was the only way that could guide South Africa from what could have become a bloody nightmare and civil war to the way that could build a nation.
And it was not sentimental. Remember truth and reconciliation. They had to face painful truths. They had to do what was just and what was merciful. They had to do what the prophet Micah said, that the motivation and the guide was love. Archbishop Tutu said this:
Love, forgiving, and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones is not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back or turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness of the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse for a while. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring forth real healing. Superficial reconciliation only brings superficial healing.
This is the way of love that can heal our hurts, that can heal our land, that can help us to become one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. So, I would ask you to do two things. I'm asking you to make a commitment, a renewed commitment, to live the way of love as Jesus has taught us and to do it by making a commitment to go out and bless somebody. Bless somebody you disagree with. Bless somebody you agree with. But to go out and bless somebody by helping somebody along the way. Go out and bless somebody by listening to their story and their life. To go out and be an instrument of God's peace, an agent of God's love.
And then I would ask you to pray. Pray for this nation but pray with some specificity. Pray that we may have the wisdom and the courage to love.
God of grace and God of glory,
on thy people pour thy pow’r.
Crown thine ancient church’s story,
bring her bud to glorious flow’r.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the facing of this hour
With malice toward none, with charity toward all. With firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right. Let us strive to finish the work, the work that we are in. To bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan. To do all which may achieve and cherish, a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
God love you. God bless you. And may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.
The St. Augustine Menorah - From Advent 2020 - Fr. Joseph Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
From Fr. Joseph Alsay, Rector, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
The inception of St. Augustine’s menorah began years ago when I visited St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City. At its high altar two massive 12 foot menorahs reside. I dreamed of a day when I could have something similar (albeit on a smaller scale) created for St. Augustine's. Last fall, the dream began to materialize. During a visit to Bill and Edith Kenney’s house, I was complimenting some iron work that her brother had done. Edith mentioned Michael was very skilled. I then shared my idea to, one day, have a large menorah commissioned for SAC. This led to a discussion about when and why it would be used.
During Advent/Christmas seasons, we look towards the One born to be the “light of the world.” This One was born of a Jewish mother and foretold by Hebrew prophets. It's a time when the use of light is so prevalent in religious celebrations: Hannukah, Diwali, Christmas and Kwanza. So, for me, the creation and use of a symbol showing our biblical ties to our Jewish forebearers and light would apropos during Advent as we await with expectation the One who would save us and all Israel.
Once the menorah was settled on, the conversation then shifted to whether it would be a nine or seven-branched menorah. If a nine-branched menorah (Jewish) was to be created it could only be used during Hannukah and that celebration varies year to year. The other issue, I wrestled with, was if the use of a Hanukkiah menorah would be seen as religious appropriation -- something Christians should avoid.
I felt the use of a seven-branched menorah would be best. First, such a menorah was commanded by God for Moses to use in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:31-40; 27:21). It also was used later in the Temple in Jerusalem by the people of Israel as a symbol of God’s presence and light long before the Star of David (I Samuel 3:3; Zechariah 4:2).
Secondly, it's important to note that a seven-branched candlestand or lamps are mentioned in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 1:13-20 and 4:5, Jesus is standing in the midst of the lampstands which represent the seven spirits or churches of Asia. Some theologians would assert the shape of a menorah is reminiscent of the “Tree of Life” from the Genesis creation story.
Finally, when you look at SAC’s menorah in relation to Advent paraments that I had created 10 years ago, you will notice the ambo antependium has the branch of Jesse’s tree, a Star of David, a rose and a Chi – Rho symbol (first two Greek letters for the word “Christ”) appliqued on it. Thus, the work of catechesis takes place, and the “picture” or “story” of Advent is completed.
So, after many hours of work and revamping of designs, on the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent 2020, Michael Happ drove from Wichita, Kansas, and delivered the iron menorah to St. Augustine’s with much acclaim.
THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF PUPPETS AND MASKS USED AT ST. AUGUSTINE'S NATIVITY PLAY, DECEMBER 2020 - FR. JOSEPH ALSAY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Many have asked about the 2020 Nativity Pageant and new Mask Puppets here at St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church -
Puppets and masks have been in existence all around the world for thousands of years. Every country or culture has its own unique artistry and traditions expressed by beautiful and creative masks and puppets. They are used for storytelling, entertainment and all kinds of religious and cultural celebrations. Some are used to depict characters in a story; some may be used to honor those who have died; some represent animals or spirits; and still others are simply a disguise. The face is often a prominent part of a puppet that emphasizes a unique feature or characteristic of the entity that it depicts.
Today’s Nativity story is told through the use of custom-made theatrical puppets, each operated by two puppeteers. The story is recounted by a humble shepherd who witnessed the unfolding of the night of Jesus’ birth (the Nativity) as an event of miraculous – larger-than-life – proportions. You will see that the faces are by far the most prominent part of our three oversized creations: Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus. Each face is based on art representing a specific ethnic background. This is meant to celebrate not only the diversity but also the interconnectedness prevalent in the world, and which is also reflected in the people of St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church.
Mary – The face of this puppet was inspired by the icon of Our Lady of Ferguson (2016), created by Mark Doox and commissioned by the Rev. Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones. The icon depicts the Madonna as African American and was created in response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri in 2016. Archeologists and anthropologists have long believed that all cultures in the world emanated from Africa. Thus, depicting Mary -- the mother of the church and all humanity -- as black, or African American, is poignant.
Joseph – This puppet was inspired by the love the Latina and Latina X communities hold for St. Joseph, guardian of our Lord. It is a well-known fact that within the first decade of the conquest of Mexico by Spain, St. Joseph was held in great devotion. In fact, Joseph was proclaimed patron of the Viceroyalty of New Spain (present-day Mexico, Central America and the Philippines). The [name of artwork] was used as the model for the face of this puppet.
Baby Jesus – This puppet was inspired by our desire to honor the native American people and the land that this great congregation was born and built upon. As many of us know, the name “Oklahoma” means, Red People and our state is known as being the place where the Trail of Tears found its end.
Maybe it’s no coincidence that now -- as we are wearing masks for protection during the coronavirus pandemic -- we are taking a new look in a new way at masks that were used long before they became a part of the 2020 daily wardrobe! Our beautiful puppet creations were made possible by the gracious contribution of Melissa and John Miller and created by Toni Mikulka, of “Giant Puppets Save the World” in Oakland California.
~ Fr. Joseph Alsay, Rector - St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
THE FEAST DAY AND HISTORY OF WILLIAM LAUD, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY - WRITTEN BY DR. GIL HAAS, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
In 1633, William Laud was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by England’s king Charles I. Laud supported liturgical practices that today would be labeled “high church”. He defended the continuity of the English Church with the medieval Church (i.e. Catholic), and he supported the wearing of surplices, the placing of the communion table—railed off from the congregation—at the east end of the chancel, and bowing at the mention of the name of Jesus. All of these actions seemed to Puritans as popery and may have promulgated their exit to the New World. Laud visited every church in England to censure Protestant ministers. However, Laud did have some commonality with Puritans including the unrelenting quest for the godly life and the hatred of corruption and extravagance. During the Civil War, Laud was accused of treason in 1640, and he was imprisoned in 1641. In 1644 he was brought to trial, but it proved impossible to point to any specific action that was truly treasonable. Parliament eventually passed a bill under which Laud was beheaded at 71 years of age on January 10, 1645 Today (January 10) is the date of his feast day on the Episcopal calendar.
~Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
AND A LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS - REFLECTIONS ON LESSONS AND CAROLS - DEACON INTERN TODD OLBERDING, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
9 Lessons and Carols has been and remains the story of Light.
And it is a story of our call to witness to the Light .
Once again, Father Joseph has reminded us of a hidden gem - Hymn 82.
Of the Father's love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!
“Of the Father's love begotten” is also known as DIVINUM MYSTERIUM. It is one of the oldest melodies in our tradition. First published in 1582, the melody dates from the 1200s. The text was written in the 300s after the Council of Nicea. The early Church wrestled, as we might, with their understanding of the Trinity. The belief in the trinity was established in the hymn's opening line when it affirms that Christ is both human and divine.
This song seems a perfect bookend to our last lesson. John tells us that God has always been and always will be. The Love that was shared with us in and through Christ cannot be destroyed.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
While this is one of my favorite readings, I did a double take when I read “the darkness did not comprehend it”. I was more familiar with language which reads “and the darkness did not overcome it.” Does darkness have mental capabilities?
Can darkness be seen as actively working against the power of light?
Against the light of Christ in the World?
At times, it is easy to be discouraged. The darkness appears to be everywhere.
Our first reading from Isaiah, from a period of about 700 years before Jesus’s birth, refers to the darkness. It speaks of “the people who walked in darkness … those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death.”
And in Matthew, we read about “Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
The first Lessons and Carols service came out of a response to darkness too. Given on Christmas Eve, 1880, Rev Benson created it to offer a “counterattraction to the public houses.” Some very dark places, I’m sure.
In 1918, the Rev. Milner-White of Kings College revised the service to what we often hear today. He too was aware of the presence and power of darkness. He had served as a military chaplain in WWI and had witnessed the horrors of trench warfare. He wrote:
“We feel powerless against the dream of the metal tearing its way into the bodies of poor men.”
Twenty-three percent of the members of his congregation died during the war.
As we look back on 2020, many of us may also have a sense of the darkness, living under the multiple shadows of COVID-19. The loss of so many, the isolation, the fear and anxiety.
Will darkness win?
These lessons shout – no.
NO – for they tell “of the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.”
Even in the darkness noted in Isaiah, we hear the promise of hope. The prophet foretells the coming of the Savior.
In Micah, we hear “Bethlehem, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth the One to be Ruler in Israel”. I read into that, that no matter how small we are, we can do great things too, though faith.
In our 1st reading from Luke, we participate in the love story as we hear the angel say “the LORD is with you.” You might see yourself, standing there hearing these words. In the pause that followed did the angel wonder what Mary might say? Did the angel doubt Mary’s willingness or her faith? How could she possibly be the bearer of all God’s promises? How could she ever carry the weight of the world’s deep longing in her womb. But then, as now, we might hear these words in response to our prayers, ‘the LORD is with us”.
So Mary in the stillness of her room received the promise of God. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.”
In faith, she received and by faith she obeyed.
In our lesson from Luke, I see hope and some irony. As “the days were completed for Mary”, they were participating in a census. Even today, we still count people.
In the second chapter of Luke, verses 8-16, we again are reminded of the light. As the Shepherds are watching the flocks, the glory of the Lord shone around them.
When Milner provided the service in December of 1918, he wanted to grieve the loss of the young men. He also wanted the simple beauty of Christian worship to shine through. He said he wanted the service to focus on “color, warmth, and delight”.
And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
I think the placement of this service today provides a great lesson plan for 2021. Yes, the darkness has been and will be part of our earthly pilgrimage, BUT it will not absorb the Light. We have been called to witness to this light, to share this love which leads us from darkness into light.
As Bishop Curry reminds us, Love is not a noun, it’s a verb!
~ Deacon Intern Todd S. Olberding, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church