Facebook
This area does not yet contain any content.
Follow us on Facebook at https: //www.facebook.com/Saint-Andrews-Church-Stamford-267309841956/
Monday
Jun122017

Trinity Sunday

TRINITY SUNDAY

Gen. 1-2:14

On most feast days you and I celebrate either a person or an event. Today we celebrate a doctrine: the Trinity. I know of no other feast in the Church that celebrates a doctrine. So this is a unique time in the calendar of the Church. Furthermore, the doctrine we celebrate is complex and has been the cause of debates and divisions within the Church for centuries. The doctrine of the Trinity maintains that God manifests Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is a unity of three persons in one godhead.

By now you are probably planning your shopping list, balancing your checkbook, cleaning out your Filofax, or texting on your Smartphone. On the one hand, the doctrine of the Trinity is just not high on your list of relevant topics. On the other hand, the doctrine of the Trinity is a very useful cluster of concepts and metaphors which help us to arrange our thoughts about God and life and which help us in our relationships with God and one another.

As some of you know, I often deal with a problem by asking questions. Thinking about the Trinity, I asked myself two questions. The first is why do people come to church? Why are you here today? There are lots of reasons: habit, courtesy to a relative or friend, concern about a sick spouse, confusion over a moral decision, a Sunday assignment (ushering), and perhaps loneliness. For years I went to church regularly because I knew that I literally could not make it through the week without divine help. There are a lot of reasons why you and I are here. But I think that one of the major reasons why you come to church is that you want to find God in your life. You’ve had some glimpses, but you want to increase your knowledge and experience of God.

The second question I asked myself is which lectionary reading speaks to our most elemental knowledge and experience of God? For me, and I expect for you, the reading of the creation story in Genesis (although long) resonates deeply with my life experience of God.

A third question popped into my mind. Does the doctrine of the Trinity help us with useful images in our knowledge and experience of God? Furthermore, does it help us in understanding Genesis? The answer is yes in both cases.

It is my thesis that the doctrine of the Trinity (that cluster of concepts and metaphors) expresses the experience of God in the life of the people of the Old Testament (the Hebrews/Jews), the people of the New Testament (early Church) and Christians today (you and me). To use the metaphoric language of God as Father, son, and Holy Ghost (or Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer as my politically correct clergy friends prefer) helps us to reflect upon those moments in our lives when we are open to and encounter God.

To illustrate my thesis, I want to tell you a story that I call “Kansas Genesis.” In 1950 I spent my summer working at the Boy Scout camp in Bonner springs, Kansas. The camp was located high on a bluff over looking the Kaw River. At the base of the bluff there was a state highway, railroad tracks, the river, and as far as the eye could see farmland. Up the highway was the town, whose sole claim to fame was the Lone Star Cement plant. This was in the days when cement plants made cement for building road and dams and foundations, rather than serving as assets and collateral for junk bonds and financial speculation.

Summer started out okay, but gradually a gentle wind arose and it began to rain. It rained and rained and rained. The Missouri River backed up and the Kaw River swelled over its banks. Boxcars floated down the river like matchboxes. The wind sashayed across the landscape pushing the rain against the bluffs and obscuring the town and the cement plant. When the rains stopped, the width of the river stretched from the base of bluff to the horizon. All the visible farmland (16 miles) was under water. We learned over the radio, for we were stranded for a week, that 50% of Kansas City had been wiped out by the flood. Gradually the waters receded, and a gentle wind hovered over the landscape, caressing the earth back to life. I watched from the bluffs. A flower would sprout; stalks of wheat would poke up. Within time the earth burst forth in its fecundity. I remember thinking at the time that standing in the wind and watching the waters recede and the vegetation return was like being present at the time of creation. I had an overwhelming sense of God as Father and Creator. There was an eeriness of life over the land, which was embodied in the wind. Surely it was the breath of God. I wondered if this were a similar experience to that of the Native American Indian, who knew beyond a doubt God as Creator and Holy Spirit.

Have you not had a similar experience or time like that in your life? Did you not marvel at the birth of your child? Has your heart not stopped for a moment at the sight of a sunset? Did you not become dumb struck at the Grand Canyon? No one had to explain to you God as Creator. And in those moments of recognition, did you not feel the eerie presence of God, the force of existence, not necessarily a mighty force, but the silent pressure of a presence, like a baby’s breath. Such is the moment of recognition of the mysteriam tremendum, the presence of God. We call it the Holy Spirit.

Ten years after the flood of 1950, I translated Genesis from the Hebrew. As I translated, I thought over and over of my experience of watching the rebirth of the Kansas countryside. Berashit bera Elohim. In the beginning God created. Listen to the magnificent saga of creation. Can you not feel its grandeur in your very bones?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was

Upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit (also translated

wind or breath) of God was moving (hovering) over the

face of the waters. (1:1-2)

Here we have God as active creator, not sitting back, but hovering over His creation. The Spirit of God is the intentional presence of that positive creator whom we call God. This is what I experienced in 1950 when I looked across the waters in Kansas.

The narrator continues:

And God said, “let the waters under the heavens be gathered

Together in one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was

So. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were

Gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was

Good. And God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants

Yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their

seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.” And it was so.

….And God saw that it was good. (1:9-12)

Have you not marveled in the spring at that moment when the green shoots are right on the edge of popping through the soil in a field or in a garden? You can just glimpse the tantalizing hint of green, and you are totally caught up in a moment of expectation right at the tip of birth. This is life. This is the moment of creation. This is the showing forth and the very presence of God and the Holy Spirit. The whole valley awakens in spring. Have you not seen it? Have you not heard it?

The divine power is intentional and purposeful in its creative force. God’s creative work climaxes in the creation of man. We are told:

God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;

And let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over

The birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth,

And over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he

Created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them,

Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and

Have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of

the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.

…. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it

was very good. (1:26-31)

The image of God: thinking, choosing, moving, living, breathing, being. It’s incredible! You and I bear that image of God. We have His imprint. His stamp is upon our very being, our genes, and our chromosomes. Our personhood is imprinted with God’s personhood. He is within us and we are within Him. Incredible!

So there are in the creation story of Genesis (a saga which is the culmination of hundreds and thousand of years of the development of the Hebrew faith) the essential elements of the doctrine of the Trinity. There is God the creator/father. There is God the spirit. There is the image of God/man. As the experience of the Hebrews developed, they knew God not only as father and spirit but also as present in individuals such as the patriarchs, the kings and the prophets. Their expectation was for a Messiah who would be the total image, or embodiment of God.

You and I confess this Messiah, this total image, to be Jesus Christ. Just as creation is not totally understood by us, and as the Spirit is slightly beyond our rational comprehension, so too Jesus as the Son of God (God incarnate) breaks the molds of our expectations and assumptions.

In the prologue to the Gospel of John the evangelist retells the Genesis story of creation, setting forth the pre-existence of Jesus Christ as the third person of the Godhead. It assures us of the divinity of Christ and the substance of the Godhead as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness overcometh it not….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the father.”

You and I come to St. Andrew’s on Sunday mornings yearning to know and to feel the presence of God in our lives. Our hearts are strangely restless. The concepts and images of the doctrine of the Trinity pervade our liturgy and our worship. They are instruments or vehicles, which help us to order our minds and thoughts for God. They carry us into the sacraments, where you and I receive the body and blood of Christ and are renewed. They open our ears and hearts to the Word of the Gospel. They accompany us from this hallowed sanctuary out into the workaday world. The concepts and metaphors of the doctrine of the Trinity stand with us in the world of life and action as we seek to serve God and our neighbor.

And now to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be all honor and glory. Amen. –Fr. Gage-

 

 

Tuesday
Jun062017

Baltimore Pentecost

Baltimore Pentecost

Jn. 20:19-23; Jn. 14:8-17

I had gone down to Baltimore to attend a conference, which would fulfill my annual requirement for continuing education credits. The conference was mundane and perfunctory, although I renewed some old acquaintances.

A little after noon on Thursday I was sitting in Penn Station in Baltimore. The New York Times was spread out before me on the lunch table. I had a two-hour wait for my train.

I looked up and there was a young man standing behind the chair opposite me. He was dressed in a light jacket, work shirt, khaki pants and clean work boots. A backpack was slung over his shoulders. He was clean-shaven but his eyes looked tired.

“You’re a Christian, aren’t you?”

I thought, “Oh, boy here is another panhandler who has spotted my dog collar and is looking for some change.” “Yes, I am.” I replied.

“My parents were Christian. They were killed in an automobile crash when I was fifteen. It sort of messed up my life.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. It must be hard.”

“Yeah. I’ve really been in and out since. I’ve used alcohol and drugs, been in and out of jail. I served three years twice.”

“You’re about twenty-eight, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. I don’t know if there is a God. I don’t know if the Buddhists or Muslims or Christians are right. I just don’t know what to think.”

“Have you been to AA? They talk of a “Higher Being.”

“Yeah,” smirk, "I’ve tried it a few times but it don’t help. I mean, should I be a Christian?”

“I don’t know. Smarter men than you and I have struggled with the question of whether or not there is a God. If I were you, I would settle on Christianity, since your parents were Christian and you probably were baptized as well. I’d leave it at that and go from there.”

“What are you? A priest or something?”

“Yes, I’m an Episcopal priest.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s one of the denominations, sort of between Roman Catholic and Protestants like Baptists, and Methodists and Congregationalists.”

“I don’t know any of those.”

“No, you probably don’t.”

” I’ve had a really hard time, done some stuff.”

“You are on something now, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“What do you take?”

“Coke, heroin, marijuana, booze.”

“That doesn’t leave much out.”

“No. I guess it doesn’t.”

“I m going to tell you a story, and it is a true one. My brother’s son at age eighteen got into a fight and ended up in downstate Illinois prison. When he came out six years later he could barely talk. He got a job as an automotive mechanic and was in and out of drugs for the next twenty years. He got by on factory jobs and bummed around. He died at age fifty from rectal cancer. It was long, slow and painful. He was tended by his sister. But what was remarkable was that about five years before he died he met a Roman Catholic priest who befriended him. My nephew became a Roman Catholic and he found meaning and direction in his life. When he died he had people who cared about him and he was at peace with much of his life. He died a good death.”

“I suggest that you find a Roman Catholic Church and see if you can find a priest who will listen to you and try to help you. You cannot take care of yourself alone nor deal with your problems and questions alone. You need the support and help of others. You have been trying to do it alone and haven’t gotten very far.”

“Do you have a job?”

“Yes, I work in a restaurant.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I am on my way to see someone. I have some vacation time.”

“Good. You know, you are a good person. Don’t forget that.”

“Yeah. You know, I think the Holy Ghost is here with us.”

Surprised, I looked at him and said, “Well, the Holy Spirit has a sense of humor and sometimes appears when we least expect it, pushing and prodding and moving us along. Do you mind if I say a prayer?”

“Oh God, be with this young man as he continues on his way. Keep him safe and well and free from harm. Guide, guard and protect him. Help him in his questions and in his desire to find meaning and purpose in his life. Be with him as he continues on his journey. This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our savior. Amen.”

“Thank you,” he said and left.

I sat there a while; it felt as though I had been in a wrinkle of time, a box of a moment. I had heard confession. I had given absolution. I had not considered what I should say, I just spoke. He, in turn, just reacted to my being there.

I thought of how the coming of the Holy Spirit is often announced with great bombast by Pentecostal preachers, or oozed by the self-conscious overly spiritually pietistic. The young man could very well be right. The Holy Spirit does come in the midst of train stations and conversations. It does not immediately cure addiction or despair. But often it brings a life giving moment of grace. For that I give thanks, and I pray for my friend.

 

Monday
May082017

Mothers and Shepherds

MOTHERS AND SHEPHERDS

5/7/17

Jn. 10:1-11

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. We also celebrate the Crowning of Mary, mother of God. My first year at St. John’s, 1990, the rector and I decided it would be a nice idea to give a flower to all the mothers in the congregation. After the service we had to flee for our lives because we had failed to notice that most of the women in the congregation were single! They felt that they were not being valued, or counted.

Leander had been a shepherd at one time and had a huge flock in northern Maine. His sermon on “the good shepherd” was one of his more popular sermons. He said that sheep are incredibly dumb and they all look alike. An agricultural revolution happened when the ear tag was invented and you could then tell the sheep apart. Also, he pointed out, no shepherd would leave the flock to go look for a lost sheep. Hence the references in the New Testament are hyperbolae – to make a point.

Honoring Mary as a saint and a mother is a good thing. It doesn’t hurt to take time out to pay homage to our own mothers, and to reflect upon their lives as well. Not all mothers are saints, but there are times when the maternal instinct bursts forth and makes our lives better. It is an instinct of love and affirmation. The instinct says to the offspring, “You count. You are valued. You mean a lot to me now.”

My own mother was a complex woman, highly demanding, but gracious and vulnerable. I was always assured that she was “on my side,” “in my corner,” or “had my back.” Throughout my first twenty years I was criticized in my father’s family for not being “a go-getter,” a “self-starter,” a “dynamic doer.” It always made me feel like I didn’t count. My mother would always reply, “Leave him alone. He’ll be all right.” I counted.

From the beginning we all want to count. Let me tell you a story that I’ve told before. In the l930's and 40's I lived in a small town west of Chicago. Every morning my mother would take the Ford and drive my father to the train station, where he would catch the Northwestern into the Loop. In the evening she would pick him up at 6:30. The station was one mile from our house. One day when my brother was a toddler, he was left napping while mother drove down to the station. Although this seems dreadful now, it seemed less so then. The fear was not so much that a child would have an accident or become ill, but that he/she might be kidnapped. The Lindbergh kidnapping was on most parents' minds. But our town was small and the house seemed secure. Even so, that summer morning my brother woke early, climbed out of his crib and trudged down Main Street after mother. Returning home, she was horrified to meet my brother half way as he diligently marched to the train station barefoot and clad in a T-shirt. He was not crying. He simply wanted his mother. Vulnerable and a little lost, he did not want to be alone. He wanted to be loved. In a broader sense he also wanted to be affirmed, to belong, to count.

I was reminded of this episode when I drove up my street some time ago and a young child, about three, ran into the street after her ball. I literally stood on the brakes. I was shaken, both by the vulnerability of the child and by my own memories of running down the street seventy years ago and being totally vulnerable. When I got home I sat in my chair and wept. How close the child had come to tragedy!

Now someone will ask, "What has this got to do with Easter tide and the gospel reading from John of the story of the Good Shepherd?” Quite frankly, a lot. I think that the image of a child, partially clothed, running down the street, vulnerable and alone is an accurate description of our human condition. You and I, regardless of our age have a sub-psychological need to count, to have significance. We need love. We need to be affirmed. We need to belong. We need to be considered worthwhile. We need to be tended. We need to count for something. In other words, we need to be significant. We need this not only from our mother, but also from our father and siblings and at all stages of our life. It is more than a hunger or a thirst. It describes a teenager in high school, a commuter on the train, a woman in her office or at home, an elderly person walking down a hall in a nursing home. Each individual carries the silent scream, "I want my mother! I want to count for something! I want to be significant! I want to be seen as a person who has some value!" Children in their late twenties feel that way. Wives feel that way. So do people at age 92. And brothers and sisters, I will bet dollars to doughnuts that no matter how much you might like to deny it, each of you has a fearsome, deep desire to count for something, to be loved.

The message of Easter tide is, YOU COUNT. Write it on the mirror in your bathroom in the morning. "I Count." Spell it out with the letters in your alphabet soup at lunch. "I Count." You count because God made you. As a little boy once said, "God don't make no trash." You and I have an intrinsic worth as complex, unique creatures of God. But most of all you and I count because God cares so much about you and me that He went out of His way to take on human nature, be persecuted and crucified, rise from the dead and come back to reveal Himself to you and me. Your and my real value is not just our natural value seen in maternal love, it is our redeemed value as someone whom God loves and cares about. God made a U-turn for you and me.

To illustrate our value to God and to Jesus Christ the early Church uses images from the Old Testament. Now here is an example of the divine sense of humor of God and the Holy Spirit. God's people are referred to as "sheep!" Talk about an image buster. There are the Detroit Lions, the Philadelphia Eagles, the UConn Huskies, the Yale Bulldogs, and the Princeton Tigers. And those who follow Jesus are called - "sheep!" Bah! Could you picture the UConn Sheep? The Princeton Sheep? The Yale Sheep? It just doesn't play. What is going on here? Well here are three points.

First of all, sheep is a metaphor. John l0: 1-10 is one of the few passages in the Bible where the author actually comes out and says that he is using metaphorical language. Sheep in the agricultural society of Palestine had value. They were worth a lot because they provided meat for food and wool for clothing. Abraham's wealth, for example, was counted in terms of the sheep he owned.

Secondly, sheep is a metaphor for the people of Israel. They migrated from Palestine to Egypt, back to Palestine, then to Babylonia and back to Israel. Under the judges they moved from hill and mountain to valleys, from rough places to places plane. No matter how settled the Hebrews became, the metaphor of sheep reminded them that they came from somewhere and were going somewhere.

Finally, sheep not only had intrinsic value and were on a journey; sheep had value because they were part of a flock, God's flock. They were under the care of someone who owned and managed the flock. The sheep counted, because they were Yahweh's, God’s sheep.

The matter of having value, of counting, comes both to sheep and people from knowing to whom they belong. Two weeks ago, I talked about Doubting Thomas and of knowing God in Christ through reason. Last Sunday I talked about the road to Emmaus story. I pointed out that it helped us to understand knowing God in Christ through our sensate, or non-rational side. Today’s story of the Good Shepherd helps us to understand that we also know God through our social context, through the group to whom we belong. This is the flock, or the Church. You and I count because God has done something for each one of us. He has died, risen and will come again. You and I come to know God through the Church. Our baptism marks each one of us. You and I are marked as Christ's own.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, you and I count. I know I am being repetitious, but that is the message of Easter tide. It is the message that the human heart yearns to hear. Our value is different from that which comes from maternal love or that which the secular world bestows. It is not a value of force, of material goods or of political and social power. Moreover, often our societal processes discount us. Try dealing with the IRS. Try being a middle school student. Try getting to work on I-95. Try talking to a politician about the need for welfare and health aid. The message you get is “you don't count.” Christ Jesus says, "Yes you do! You are mine." You can be helpless as in a hurricane, be voted out of office, or lose your job. Even so, you count. You and I are not condemned to run eternally down life's road hoping to be caught up in the embrace of someone who might love us and to whom we might be precious. Rather, you and I are never abandoned. The Lord, our shepherd.

This Easter tide rejoice when you arise. Remember, "You count." When you retire, count sheep. Count yourself among those for whom Christ died. Here at St. Andrew’s make your lives count by sharing the Gospel. Affirm with joy and love your brothers and sisters in Christ as well as your neighbors in the community who hunger to hear the message of God's love and faithfulness. The Lord is our shepherd. We shall not want. Neither should those around us. God in Christ catches us up in His loving embrace. In His arms you and I find our true home. Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia. Amen. - Fr. Gage.

 

 

 

Thursday
Apr202017

The Empty Tomb

THE EMPTY TOMB

EASTER EVE

Tonight is the defining moment of Christendom. Tonight we meet the empty tomb. In so doing, you and I confront Christ’s resurrection, which marks His victory, His triumph, over evil, sin and death. By the resurrection of Christ, God shows us that hope overcomes despair, that righteousness overcomes injustice, that mercy overcomes oppression and that love overcomes terror and hatred.

It is the doctrine of the resurrection that sets Christians, you and me, apart from other religions and interpretations regarding the meaning of life. By His resurrection Jesus is more than just a holy man, more than a prophet, more than a teacher-rabbi, more than a miracle worker-healer. Christ’s resurrection affirms Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah, the guarantor of eternal life. Christ’s resurrection changed history and redefined the meaning of life for millions.

Now I am going to tell you three stories. You have heard them before. The first story: Years ago, I met the Easter Bunny. It wasn’t really the Easter Bunny; it was a person in a white rabbit suit out in the day care playground. She was having a great time with the kids. In my imagination I asked, “What are you doing?” “ “Oh, I’m having fun with the children. I guess I am trying to remind folk of joy and peace and new birth.” “ Funny, I replied, that is my job too. Hop along,” I said, and she did.

Imagination transports us through the spectrum of time, enables us to participate in various dimensions of reality and to grasp truths that often seem ephemeral. One of which is the story of the resurrection. It is the story of hope. It is the assurance of eternal life with a loving God. The story of the Easter Bunny moves us to that direction. It is good. The secular world is but a reflection of the eternal world. It prepares us for truths too deep for tears, too joyous for laughter.

For many Easter is simply the seasonal celebration of spring and new birth, a reflection of the life cycle. But for Christians, Easter is more than the religion of nature; it is the statement that through the revelation of Jesus Christ each one of us receives the promise of eternal life with the source of all life and all beauty and all love, God Himself.

Now for my second story: Jesus was a Jew. You cannot understand Easter without knowing about the prophecies in Isaiah, Jeremiah and the Psalms. Israel longed for, hungered for, a messiah. Jesus fulfilled that expectation and hunger. The Old Testament is the foundation for Christianity. Our Easter event is the demarcation of Christianity from Judaism.

The third story: It is part of a much longer story, which is one of my favorites. Some years ago I had a call at 10:30 p.m. from Bouton and Reynolds Funeral Home. “Father Gage, this is Michelle. I have a special request of you. Could you do a Jewish funeral tomorrow at 11:00 a.m.? I cannot get a rabbi. The family had decided they would not have a funeral, but at the last minute felt that they had to have some kind of service. They are more or less non-practicing Jews. When I was unable to get a rabbi, I told them that I knew a really nice Episcopal priest, who would try to help them. It will be just a small family gathering. Can you help me out?” “Sure, Michelle, I’ll do what I can,” I replied. After I hung up and told my wife, Faye, about this, she replied, “Are you out of your mind?”

Apparently I was. I got up early the next morning and went down to my office. I have some books on funerals, and I thought I would find something in them. Nothing. “Oh, well, I thought, I’ll just take the burial service in The Book of Common Prayer and delete any references to Jesus.” Wrong. The burial service opens with, “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (BCP p.469)

The whole burial service is loaded with Easter and resurrection theology. So I put together a service of an opening statement, a prayer, a psalm, a reading from Ecclesiastes, a prayer, a psalm, a eulogy and a closing prayer.

When I got to the funeral home, the “small family gathering” was of 80, 60 men and 20 women dressed in black. I told them that I was honored to be with them in their time of grief and loss and that my job as a minister was to tend to the needs of all people in the heart of Stamford. They were relieved and the service went well.

My point is that it is the Easter story of the resurrection that is the lynchpin of our Christian religion. Judaism is wonderful and we are deeply indebted to it for our Judeo-Christian heritage. But we part company in our narrative, in our history, in our imagination, in our expectations and in our philosophic/theological worldview as a result of the Church’s experience, of your and my experience, of the empty tomb.

My third story is more of a reflection. On Tuesday of the following week, I gave the homily at the funeral of a woman I had known for 25 years. She was the same age as I am and we shared the same tart sense of the absurdity of life. We also shared a deeply felt reliance upon God and thankfulness for the salvation, which we found in Jesus as the resurrected Christ. We will meet in heaven someday and have a great time comparing our observations and experiences. Following her funeral, I had two other funerals in the upcoming weeks. One woman I’d known for 45 years. The other woman I knew not at all.

In each of these funerals, my job was to articulate the Easter message of the resurrection. It was to affirm that in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ you and I have a personal promise that says that life is purposeful, is meaningful, is positive, creative, recreative and full of redemption and hope. It is the message of the resurrection. The Easter event that you and I celebrate is the affirmation of that which is mysterious and imponderable. It speaks to our own hunger for victory and triumph in life. It speaks to our own instincts and consciences, to the image of God within us, which recognizes the truth of an unimaginable triumphant act of a miracle – of the resurrection event, which is the focus and pulsating signal of our life and our hope.   

Brothers and sisters, the old Book of Common Prayer has it nailed when it proclaims, “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

I know that my Redeemer liveth, and he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.” BCP     

Tonight you and I celebrate the victory of love over cruelty, mortality and despair. We celebrate that triumph because it speaks to us collectively and individually and because it also speaks for us. You and I exalt in the triumph of Jesus Christ over evil, sin and death. And that’s an amazing victory and triumph! That brothers and sisters, is our triumph. Jesus Christ is risen. Brothers and sisters, let me hear it; Christ is risen. The Lord is risen in deed. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Amen. – Fr. Gage

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday
Apr202017

Condemnation and Conviction in the Cross

Good Friday

CONDEMNATION AND CONVICTION IN THE CROSS

The cross is the culmination and the terminus, or the logical conclusion of the warnings and condemnation of the prophets.

Time and again Israel, which is to say the nation, society and individuals alike, was called to task for its sins. Listen to what some of the prophets wrote.

Jeremiah: 5:26-29 Scoundrels are found among my people; they take over the goods of others. Like fowlers they set a trap and catch human beings. Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of treachery; therefore they have become great and rich, they have grown fat and sleek. They know no limits in deeds of wickedness; they do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. Shall I not punish them for these things?

 

Jeremiah: 6:13-15 From the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying,: Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. They acted shamefully, they committed abomination; yet they were not ashamed, they did not know how to blush.

 

Amos: 4: 1- 2 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on Mount Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, “Bring something to drink!” The Lord God has sworn by his holiness: the time is surely coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks…

 

Amos 5:24 Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

 

Micah 6:8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

 

Israel and the prophets knew that innocence, suffering and sacrifice were the underpinnings, or seeds, of redemption. Again, hear the prophets.

 

Jeremiah: 11:19 I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes say, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered.

 

Isaiah: 53:3-9 He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future; For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

 

The cross stands as a condemnation of individuals, society, a people and a nation (Jew and Gentile, Roman and Hebrew) who failed to follow the Ten Commandments, who were filled with venial and moral sin and who could not save themselves. The prophets of the Old Testament knew that it took innocence, a paschal lamb, a suffering servant to reveal the injustice, the lack of righteousness, the rule of evil, and the powers of darkness and idolatry.

 

A good man, an innocent man, one in which there is truth and light, a divine man, brings out the worst in the world. One who is compassionate, who is honest, who keeps the covenant draws all the powers of destruction that lie below the surface of individuals and society.

 

The cross, then, is the culmination of God’s judgment through the law and the prophets.

 

The condemnation and conviction of the cross of Israel in the time of Jesus is not just a saga, not just a legend, not just a myth. The cross is as powerful today as in the past.

 

Come with me in the present on a journey of the imagination. It is a journey of realism. I wish I had a camera, a very special digital camera that I could download into the computer. For then you could see what I see everyday.

I would show you the poor. Men standing on street corners and under bridges waiting for work. The unemployed men in the basement of the Cathedral on Tuesday while the clergy of the diocese were upstairs being holy. Those men were dirty, alcoholic, drug familiar and down and out.

I would show you children having children. Young men who think getting a girl pregnant is a sign of manhood. Young women who think sex is recreation.

I would show you disregard of the elderly, where elder care is dictated by profit motive and by convenience. Come see the wheel chair bound lined up like used cars waiting for something to happen.

I would show you the sick in beds, like beatles on their backs with the legs and arms waving in the air trying to get righted.

I would show you the waste of war upon veterans who are limbless, blind and shell shocked.

I would show you prisons filled with mentally ill who are punished for their illness as well as for their sins.

I would show you the callousness of the wealthy, who pay seven thousand dollars a year country club dues, but tithe twenty dollars a week.

I would show you a society that pays those who care for our children less than a living wage and who expects those who tend our children and our sick to be thankful for the jobs.

I would show you today’s “cows of Bashan” who indulge in competitive narcissism. What fraternity did you belong to? Did you see my BMW?

I would show you people who glamorize the sybaritic life style.

I would show you a nation, a society, corporations, individuals who fail to keep their covenants.

I would show you men and women who fail to keep their word and who fail to keep their vows.

I would show you arrogance and hypocrisy.

I would show you persons who make a pet out of their physical or psychological illness.

I would show you my friend dying of cancer, who has two to eight weeks to live, who is on a morphine drip to control his pain and to stop his screaming. He has no insurance, is not yet on Medicaid, and has basically been rejected by society because he did not solve his own problems and become self sufficient.

The cross convicts and condemns you and me, individually, corporately, as a society and as a nation for our sins.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. God have mercy. Amen. – Fr. Gage -