Altar bells draw the congregation’s attention to the Eucharist’ salient points. This was particularly critical during Medieval Latin masses, as the communicants were unfamiliar with the language. Ritual Notes states that bells should be rung on four occasions. The first is at the Sanctus (i.e., “Holy (ring), Holy (ring), Holy (ring) Lord God of Hosts”...) which has given the name, “sanctus bells”, to altar bells. The bells are rung again immediately prior to the Words of Institution (“For in the night in which he was betrayed...”). In Catholic tradition, this is when the elements are about to be become Christ’s body and blood, and the communicants’ attention should be maximized. Thirdly, the bells are rung thrice after each segment of the Words of Institution so the communicants could worship Christ’s elevated presence (the priest genuflects [ring], elevates the consecrated host [ring], and genuflects [ring]). The bells are rung a final time at the Great AMEN inviting the congregation to come forward for Communion. In England, tower bells are often rung simultaneously with the altar bells so that home-bound parishioners could worship with the congregation, and bells are continuously rung during the Gloria at Christmas’ midnight mass.
~Dr. Gil Haas
Sermon excepts delivered on The Seventh Sunday of Easter
& The Feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury
May 24, 2020
Acts 1: 6-14 & John 17:1-11
The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
“You Can’t Keep Us Down”
“Well, you can’t keep a good man down.”
Have you heard that saying before? And today we might add, or a good woman! Why is that? Why can't you keep a good person down? What is there in the nature of genuine goodness that's irrepressible and unsinkable?
Maybe this is something to think about on this Seventh Sunday of Easter. If there was ever a supreme example of the indestructible nature of true manhood it was Jesus. For though he was the Son of God, the incarnate Christ, he was also the Son of man.
He knew the pains of the body, felt the heartaches and longings of the human heart. He drank fully of the cup his Father gave him. On him the full weight of the world's hatred fell, yet he bore it - and triumphed! And his triumph was not only for himself but for every human being who would ever live.
Because Jesus has ascended into the place and reality where life will always triumph over death, and so can we.
Because Jesus has overcome the things that try to keep life tied down and tied up and so can we.
The truth is that there is a lot that does try to hold us down in our lives, in the church, and in the world.
There is violence and war in this world, in our own cities, and in the human heart. There are oppressive systems that keep people tied down in grinding poverty and hopelessness. There is sickness, sin, and sadness in our own experience and lives.
There is dissension and dissonance on every level, in every sector, even in the Church of God. And these things connive and plot to keep us down, just as they tried to keep Jesus down.
"But you can't keep a good man or woman down."
That is the message of Christ's resurrection and that is the meaning of this remarkable story of Christ's ascension. Try as you will, try as you might, you simply can't keep a good person down.
There is a lot to keep human beings down. But the questions for this day go like this. Are we going to settle for being tied down to the ground? Are we going to settle for the grave and gravity of being held down to the ground?
No, we are not tied down any more, but that has a consequence for us.
We are the bearers of the message and reality of God's love and life. We are called to witness to it and grow it in the world and in our own lives.
God has made us partners in the mission and victory of life itself.
You know, I’ve seen this power at play through the tireless work of the man we honor today. A man who has earned the respect of those in this church, in our larger Oklahoma City community, in our state and yes, even in our nation.
A man who has made it his life’s goal to help lift up those who have been tied down to the things that kept them dispirited, declining, and despairing.
We are all witnesses to a man who has acknowledged that the challenges we face are real, yet has been able to infuse within our community a sense of new hope, energy and vision.
Why and how?
Because dare I say David Fuller Holt believes in the power beyond himself and decided to "go for it," He was released for something new, something higher, something that draws him into the life and power of God.
That’s why on this Seventh Sunday of Easter and Feast of patron saint—St. Augustine, I award him the 2020 St. Augustine of Canterbury Award.
~ Fr. Joseph C. Alsay
Pentecost is listed on page 15 of our Book of Common Prayer as one of the seven principal feasts of the church year. Anglicans have traditionally labeled Pentecost as, “Whitsunday”, a shortened version of “White Sunday”. The term reflects the custom by which those who were baptized at the Vigil of Pentecost (i.e., the Saturday evening before the Sunday service on Pentecost) would wear their white baptismal garments to church the next day. Our Book of Common Prayer provides directions for a Vigil of Pentecost on page 227. On page 312, Pentecost is listed as one of the five Sundays of the church year that are “especially appropriate” for Holy Baptism. In spite of the traditional association with the color white, the liturgical color for Pentecost is red. The term, pentecost, means “the fiftieth day”. Its celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit occurs on the fiftieth day after Easter. Pentecost in the old testament refers to the wave, peace, burnt, and sin offerings offered to God on the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:9-23) fifty days after Passover in late May/early June. This feast originally celebrated the grain harvest but later commemorated the giving of the law on Sinai. ~Dr. Gil Haas
Deans (addressed as “The Very Reverend”) are incumbents (having the primary pastoral and administrative responsibility) for cathedrals, schools, or several parishes called a deanery. Rectors are priests (“The Reverend”) who are incumbents of parishes, while the term parson is a colloquial term applied to any clergy. A curate is the priest or deacon (“The Reverend Deacon”) who is the incumbent’s assistant. A vicar is the incumbent of either a missionary parish or a chapel in a hospital, airport, or other location. A priest-in-charge has the temporary responsibility of incumbent. A canon (“The Reverend Canon”) is an honorary title conferred upon clergy for faithful service. In the Church of England, archdeacons (the Venerable) are priests or deacons who are given special responsibilities by their bishop. Bishop coadjutors (“The Right Reverend” for life) have been appointed to assist a diocesan bishop (“The Right Reverend”), and they become diocesan bishop upon the bishop’s retirement. Suffragan bishops are similar but without automatically becoming the next bishop. Our Presiding Bishop (“The Most Reverend”) is the Episcopal parallel to Anglican archbishops. Within the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s title is “The Most Reverend and Right Honorable the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury."
~Dr. Gil Haas
All though during Roman occupation, England had converted to Christianity, following the Roman withdrawal, Anglo-Saxon paganism was forced on the populace. It is against this background that Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory the Great to re-Christianize England beginning in Kent in southeastern England. The ruler of Kent was King Ethelberht, who had married a Christian French princess, Bertha. Although Bertha restored an ancient Roman church, the king and his subjects remained pagan. Scholars disagree as to whether Bertha or Ethelberht (following Bertha’s urging) requested a missionary from Gregory. Bede, an 8th-century monk, recorded that Pope Gregory saw fair-haired Saxon slaves in the Roman slave market, and he was inspired to convert them. After Augustine established a mission in Bertha’s church, King Ethelberht was baptized on Whitsunday, 597. Following the king’s conversion, Augustine wrote that over 10,000 Christians were baptized. Augustine was named the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 601. Although Gregory planned to move Augustine’s archiepiscopal see to London, the move from Canterbury never occurred. Although there are many quotes attributed to Augustine, one of my favorites is “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” Augustine died on May 26, 604, which is his feast day.
~ Dr. Gil Haas
This Gospel lesson from the 14th Chapter of John is a continuation of last Sunday’s lesson. The setting is the Last Supper, where Jesus talks with his disciples about his future and their future—when Jesus says that he will depart from them but will not leave them “orphaned.” In this brief lesson of only seven verses, Jesus says that in place of himself—humankind’s first Advocate—Jesus says he will ask God to send another Advocate, the Holy Spirit. Even though Jesus cannot remain with them physically, the Holy Spirit will be with them always.
In this world, which is filled with personal agendas, prejudice and personal anxieties, most of us, I assume, are not used to having an advocate—especially one that will be with us always. Maybe someone advocates for us, or we for another, for a while, but then we tend to get absorbed in the stuff of our own lives.
I first had to seriously consider this concept of being an unyielding advocate when I did some training as a personal and business coach many years ago. In this training and in the practice that subsequently resulted, we were trained to ALWAYS have the client’s back, to never walk away, to never give up on them. We were trained to always recognize that they were making the best decisions based on the options they perceived. And so, in other words, no judging was allowed and constant positive regard was expected. As strong of an image as this is in human terms, I’m sure that this is a weak parallel to the advocacy that the Holy Spirit provides for us throughout our lifetime, and throughout the lifetimes of all of humankind.
Woven around this promise to send the Holy Spirit, this Gospel story also focuses on words about love and keeping commandments. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” At first this sounds like a statement of verbal leverage, like Jesus is saying that you will prove your love for me by keeping my commandments. But I don’t think that was Jesus’ intent; it’s not that complicated, nor is it about “proof.” This only seems to be a statement about basic relationship: “If you love me, you will honor me.” Just as others, I do my best to do this with my wife—to love and honor her. I do my best to do this with my children and grandchildren. I do my best to do this with my God, as well—to love and honor God, my neighbor and myself. When I love, keeping the commandments is a natural consequence.
When I love my wife and kids and others, I see how our lives are intertwined, just as my life is intertwined with God’s, with Jesus’ when I love and honor them. When I am out of sync with God, I fill myself up with thoughts about myself--edging God out. At those times I am more joined to the ways of the world than the way of Jesus. And like Jesus said, I cannot at that time receive the Spirit of truth because I do not see or know him. Why would I purposefully do this?
I believe that most of us do not purposefully edge God out. For the most part, we are likely even unaware when we do this. Living from our smaller selves, the ways of the world as Jesus puts it, rather than the ways of the Spirit can sneak up on us. After all, we swim in the world like fish swim in the sea. We seem to be balancing ourselves in these two worlds every day. But, rather than think of them as two distinct places where we plant a foot in each, why not recognize that God created the world and everything in it—including ourselves--and it was good! God’s creation is holy. However, we—humankind, ourselves and our ancestors before us—formed the culture of our world. Our culture is a human invention. And this is where Christians responding in truth to their faith and the good will of all people throughout the world, can make a difference. Individually and together, we can exert an influence of good will, of Christ, in the world and not live huddled, our hearts locked in fear. When we express Christ, we express love, we express forgiveness and freedom. This is a way that Christians will hopefully show up in the world.
So maybe the question is, how can I do this? How can I be more like Christ in the world? It seems that keeping love in the forefront of every interaction is a really hard thing to do. I might like to do that, but the next thing I know, I’m responding to others and situations out of fear; I drop into catastrophizing and I’m imagining the worst outcome; I feel a need to compete, even with those people I love most! If that sounds messed up, you evaluated that well! It is messed up. Consider the life that results from these kinds of interactions on a daily basis! … Really, take a moment to draw a line through a lot of these fearful, ego-preserving interactions with others and with the circumstances and situations we find ourselves in, and draw that line right to the logical outcome. And ask yourself if that’s the life you want to live. Is this how I want to be remembered? —or even regarded daily by others around you. …
And now, contrast that image with the same people, the same situations, the same circumstances we find ourselves in on a daily basis, but this time, imagine pressing the pause button. We press that pause button and do not react with our first response. We pause and decide: “How do I want to respond here? I get to choose! Nobody else is in charge of this decision point but me! Do I want to respond with grace, love and forgiveness? …but, it seems so hard to get past my anger and slight or whatever dominant feeling is churning inside … how can I simply set that aside and be this larger self that Jesus is asking of me? And, the answer is, it’s likely not easy. And, it likely doesn’t happen all at once. I don’t turn that corner once and have it mastered. But, it does likely happen by being intentional about following this path that Jesus set out for us. It does likely happen one baby-step at a time; one press of the pause button at at time, one decision at a time. And if today you are 1% better at this kind of discipline than you were yesterday, that is reason to REJOICE! And God rejoices with you. If you are only willing to press that pause button, the Holy Spirit will come to you and help shift your decision, shift your life. Amen.
~Fr. Tony Moon, Sermon Shared Sunday, May 17th 2020
The final verses of Luke’s gospel (24:50-53) suggest that Christ’s ascension occurred on the evening of His resurrection. However, the book of Acts (1:3) and tradition state that the ascension occurred forty days later. There are no direct accounts of the ascension in the other three gospels, although John’s gospel and Paul’s letters have references to the event. The theological significance of Christ’s ascension is that His human form was taken up into Heaven where He exercises all power in Heaven and on earth. Ascension Day on the fortieth day after Easter began to be celebrated in the fourth century with a procession to commemorate Christ’s journey to the Mount of Olives. In these early times, the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost and the Ascension were celebrated as a unitive festival. During the last quarter of the fourth century in Constantinople, the church calendar separated the two feasts. Until 1970, the Paschal candle was doused after the gospel lesson on this day, implying that Christ’s human body was no longer earth-bound. In more recent times the Paschal candle continues to be lit throughout the Easter season concluding with the celebration of Pentecost.
~Dr. Gil Haas
~Our Book of Common Prayer identifies the Rogation Days (from Latin rogatio - “asking”) as the three days before next Thursday’s Ascension Day celebration. In the fifth century, fasting and prayer for three days prior to Ascension Day by the city of Vienne, France, prevented a disaster which threatened it. A commemoration of this Pre-Ascension Day event spread, but it was not immediately adopted by the church since it was thought that fasting was inappropriate during the Easter season. For this reason, when Rogation Days were added to the church’s calendar, fasting was omitted. In England, the days became associated with a blessing of the fields in hopes of a bountiful harvest. On this day, the vicar “beat the bounds” of the parish with willow rods, processing around the fields reciting psalms and the litany. . Although this custom dates back to the 9th century, it was abolished by Elizabeth I, but in recent times the practice has been revived. The Book of Common Prayer (pp. 208-9), lists three propers for Rogation Days entitled “Fruitful seasons”, “Commerce and industry”, and “Stewardship of creation”. Lectionaries for these propers are listed on page 930. Our Book of Occasional Services contains material for a Rogation procession.
~Dr. Gil Haas
~ Rev. Dr. Dawn M. Enderwood
Affirming words are essential to our well being.
You can do it!
Girls are great!
It not whether you win or lose…it’s how you play the game.
I love you sweetheart
It will get better.
You are smart.
You are kind.
You are important.
And from our Lord, Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Our planet is filled with troubled hearts today.
Some of us are lonely--
Some of us are unemployed--
And some of us are grieving--
The uncertainties of COVID-19 keep us ever on edge.
Do not let your hearts be troubled.
These are powerful words for our place in time.
We are nearly 3 months into pandemic panic.
It’s been 2 weeks since a soft opening of our city.
Still deaths are being recorded in our community.
Contagions abound…sometimes without symptoms.
Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Do not let our hearts be troubled, but HOW Jesus?
Historically, we know of many tragedies that the people of God have faced:
Remember Moses and the 7 plagues over Egypt?
Water turned to blood
Darkness for 3 days…
Death of the first-born son.
The Hebrew people—Moses’ people—God’s chosen ones—were effected by all of these…except for the last.
Their sons were saved.
Do not let your hearts be troubled was God’s promise as he passed over the Hebrew homes and spared their baby sons.
In Jesus’ times, people were stricken with leprosy, demons, corrupt officials, and other afflictions.
Tragedies have always fallen upon God’s people.
I don’t point out these events to make us think--
‘It could be worse.’ …
Or… ‘We’re not the first.’
Let’s think about how the people of God of other times and places survived their unexpected…often shattering…tragedies.
Times when they felt sure God had abandoned them.
As we look expectantly to scientists and doctors for a vaccine, we may wonder the same.
Where is God?
Why has he forsaken us?
At this time…in our despair…let’s take a minute to remember who we are as people of God.
To remember that our lives and tethered to God.
To know that our lives are secured by God…and…
Regardless of how we might feel today, we are not free-falling into an unknown abyss.
God has not forsaken us.
Yes, Jesus cried out those words from the cross.
Even Jesus felt deserted by God.
He could not imagine what next hours of his life would bring.
He did not know he would be lovingly removed from his cross.
He did not know that he would be prepared for burial and taken to a new sepulcher by his friend Joseph of Arimathea.
He did not know that overnight…he would be SAVED.
He was resurrected by his Lord.
He could not have imagined his miracle when he cried out in forsakenness from the cross.
During this pandemic…
during our uncertainty…
we are not forsaken by God.
Remember when Joseph was humiliated and angry with Mary?
He had a dream…
and in the dream and angel assured him
‘Do not be afraid. The birth of this baby fulfills the promise of the prophets.
And he shall be Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’
In these days when our city is beginning to open…
and we are still afraid….
We recall these words, and know with confidence, God is with us.
Today we hear the loving words of Jesus to his disciples--Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Do not let your hearts be troubled--
God has not forsaken us.
We are God’s people.
God is with us always…our Emmanuel.
And so, we live in faith and confidence of the promises of our Lord.
God is here.
God is with us.
God is loving us.
And whatever tragedies swirl around us…
Whatever darkness presses down upon us…
God promises something greater…holier… than our current reality.
God is here…
Copyright Rev. Dawn M. Enderwood
Psalm 23 & John 10:1-10
The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
Access denied. Frustrating words when you’re trying to get into a website or maneuver in the mysterious world of the web. Access denied. Many countries around the world serve as Internet gatekeepers, blocking or filtering content. Access is denied if material about politics, sexuality, or religion is seen as too sensitive for ordinary citizens.
At its worst religion is seen as a gatekeeper. Most people out in the world today look at religion especially Christianity, with a tainted view. They see Christians as being: Intolerant, Bitter, Judgmental, Homophobic. They believe religion’s chief aim is to declare who’s in and who’s out. Defining who gets access to God, to communion, or to the afterlife.
For example, in the so-called Pearly Gates vignettes. St. Peter is the gatekeeper. So three men die and meet him at those well- known gates. To the first man St. Peter says: “You’ve lived an outstanding life. No problems with the law. Faithful in marriage. No major sins. Go right in.”
To the second man he says: “You’ve been basically lived a good life. But there was some mischief in your youth. You’ll need some time in purgatory, then heaven is yours.”
To the third man St. Peter says: “A troubling life you’ve lived . . . . you stole a car, got into a fistfight with your neighbor, and you’re having an affair with your best friend’s wife. You will have to go to purgatory for a long time to repent.” As the man departs for his sentence St. Peter says, “You’re wearing a royal blue and golden yellow jacket. Are you a Golden State Warrior’s fan?” “Yes, I am,” the man answers. “Just go right into heaven, “says St. Peter. “You’ve been through enough already.”
So many gatekeepers give religion a bad name.
Despite all those sermons about grace it is still our human nature to think of God as the stern gatekeeper who will determine our eternal destiny based on the cumulative score of how we’ve lived our life.
What if that wasn’t the point? What if the gate is about something different altogether?
It’s not one of the most quoted, used or painted metaphors for Jesus: a gate. “I am the gate for the sheep. “Words right out of today’s gospel. When one takes a look at gates. You will notice that some are always open. Some are perpetually closed. Some are closed only when something needs to be kept inside temporarily – a dog, a horse, a child.
So, this image would have been understood in its time. Because in the Middle East, it was common for a one shepherd out of a group to be the appointed one who would literally lie across the entrance of a sheep pen. Thus, creating a human barricade. A living shield.
When Jesus talks about being a gate, he mentioned thieves and bandits who come to destroy. What are the things in our world and in our lives that block access to the abundant life that God desires for us?
As gates go, Jesus is rather unconventional.
If he keeps any out it’s those that everyone thought were locked in – the religious ones who think they are so righteous and have all of the answers.
If he keeps any in, it’s those everyone thought couldn’t get in the gate – the outsider, the sinner, the marginalized.
That’s the message and thrust of this community.
In the midst of an uncertain and unprecedented moment in history when many are getting frustrated with each other. We celebrate the Easter message of resurrection that proclaims all people may experience the welcome and hospitality of God.
When, because of the coronavirus, our lives have been turned upside down and everything has changed in the blink of an eye. We hope that in this place all will find open access to the grace and mercy of God.
In a time when we feel the stress of multiple zoom meetings, family responsibilities, and the burnout of our fast – paced world. We pray that through worship, preaching, music and an inclusive community you will experience this place to be a “gate of grace.”
Yes, it is the hope that this place will be a “path of and to peace.”
Now, more so than ever, some of us are connected to e-mail, cell phones, televisions and iPods 24/7. This constant access can take its toll on us. Our circuits get overloaded, if you know what I mean. In such a world, Jesus becomes a gate to something else. Access to the presence of God that calms our hearts and gives us peace in the midst of life’s craziness.
The Risen Christ comes to grant abundant life.
Access granted. That is the good news this day.
~Fr. Joseph Alsay
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.