Sunday, May 22, 2022

Fifth Sunday after Easter, commonly called Rogation Sunday

The Collect

O LORD, from whom all good things do come; Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Epistle (St. James i. 22)

BE ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

The Gospel (St. John xvi. 23)

VERILY, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Rogation Sunday - Message in a Minute

We are now in the waning days of Eastertide. The forty days seem to have gone by pretty fast -- certainly faster than the forty days of Lent ever seem to pass by. The Book of Common Prayer's calendar winds up Easter with a mini-season we call Rogationtide. It is composed of today, Rogation Sunday, and then the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week -- these are the days leading up to Ascension Day which we call the Rogation Days.

Rogation comes from the Latin word which means to ask -- as in interrogate. In this morning's Gospel Jesus says, "Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." What he says justifies our practice of asking God almighty for things in prayer. We ask for things because he tells us to, not necessarily because we have a complete understanding of how the process works. It is much like Holy Communion -- Jesus says it's his Body and Blood, we take him at his word. He tells us to ask for things, and so, we ask for things.

As we enter Rogationtide let us take encouragement from St. Paul's stirring description of what is going to happen on the last day when the fruit of our faith will be made manifest:
"Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed... thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ ... therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord."

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Fourth Sunday after Easter

The Collect

O ALMIGHTY God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle (St. James i. 17)

EVERY good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

The Gospel (St. John xvi. 5)

JESUS said unto his disciples, Now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

Easter IV - Message in a Minute

In today's readings Jesus teaches us that the Holy Ghost will lead the disciples into all truth, that is, he will teach them what they need to know that they do not know or cannot know right when he goes back to heaven. We see that promise working itself out in the history of the church as decisions get made about what the truth is -- what books should be in the Bible, how the church ought to be structured and governed, how the church should worship and so on. Those large consensus decisions are the work of the Holy Ghost.

We can look at the theological controversies of our time -- the disputes that have made the existence of this church necessary -- in the terms Jesus uses this morning. We believe the Holy Ghost speaks to us about God and teaches us in an authoritative way in the pages of the Bible. We live with the Bible, and we interpret and apply the Bible within the two-thousand year tradition of the church.

We can trust what God has said and promised us. He does not and will not change his mind. Understandings grow and deepen. Different historical situations bring different parts of the Bible into prominence. But God will not contradict himself. The test of whether something is of God is whether it squares with what we know for certain already. What we know for certain already is the Bible, where the Holy Ghost reveals, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Third Sunday after Easter

 The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who showest to them that are in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness; Grant unto all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's Religion, that they may avoid those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Epistle (1 St. Peter ii. 11)

DEARLY beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

The Gospel (St. John xvi. 16)

JESUS said to his disciples, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

Easter III - Message in a Minute

At the beginning of today's Epistle, Saint Peter addresses the Christians to whom he is writing as strangers and pilgrims. That too is what is at the heart of Jesus' Gospel message. In this world, we Christians are in a sort of interim state.

We know our sins have been forgiven, but we know we are not yet perfect. We know that Jesus conquered death for us by rising from the grave, but it hasn't happened to us yet. God has promised us that we are going to heaven in the end, but we are, quite clearly, not in heaven yet. We are trapped in a state of being perpetually in between -- we are in the midst of a rather extended little while. We know it won't go on forever, but we still can't be sure just when it will end.

As far as the world is concerned, this is not our real home. In the deepest sense, we don't really belong here -- we are only strangers. We are not expecting to hang around here forever, either. We are pilgrims -- only passing through -- on our way to somewhere else. This life is exactly what the Book of Common Prayer says it is, transitory or passing away.

In baptism and confirmation Jesus gives us his Spirit to keep us going until the last little while has ended. His Spirit is the Holy Ghost -- the presence and power of God in our hearts, working on us from the inside to change us into exactly what he wants us to be, "No more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God."