Sermons

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 The following sermons are from recent months, in reverse order — with the most recent one being the first one below.

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December 17, 2017                   3rd Sunday in Advent

Collects: p. 93 and 90

OT: Isaiah 35

Epistle: I Corinthians 4:1- 5

Gospel: St. Matthew 11:2 – 10

A sermon by the Rev. Fr. Raleigh H. Watson, DDS, Rector, St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Church, Winchester, Virginia

“Ministers and Stewards of the Holy Mysteries of God” (collect)

          The propers and theme of this Third Sunday in Advent tie in with the Advent Ember Days, which begin this Wednesday. Ember Days, as you know, are observed four times each year – after the first Sunday in Lent, Whitsunday, in the Fall, and in Advent – and consist of a Wednesday, a Friday, and a Saturday, at each of these times. These are days of fasting and prayer for specific purposes. In our times, the primary focus is on the ordained ministry – and that “many will be called” to that ministry. When first observed, in the Third Century, there were only three “sets” of Ember Days each year and these were probably holdovers from the earlier pagan festivals having to do with harvest, wine-making, and planting. The exact purpose of the celebrations at that time is not very clear, but by the Fifth Century, the present focus on ordinations was firmly settled. Interestingly, in 1969, the Roman Catholic Church eliminated the traditional Ember Days, and replaced them with days of prayer for various needs as determined by their bishops. The Anglican and Episcopal groups have continued on as before, with prayer that “many will offer themselves for this ministry.”

So, our propers today have been placed here to coordinate with that “ministry” theme. Listen to some of the wording we hear today.

The collect is interesting right from the start, as we hear it addressed to Jesus Christ – one of a very few collects in the Book of Common Prayer that are addressed to Him. Most collects address “Almighty God,” “Merciful Father,” “O Lord,” or just “God.” This one speaks to Jesus Christ, and acknowledges that He has sent His “Messenger” to prepare the way for Him – Messenger – an aide, an assistant – a type of “minister.” The next line speaks of “ministers and stewards” of His mysteries, who “prepare and make ready the way.”

The epistle echoes a great deal of the same wording, as Paul describes himself and the other Apostles as “Ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.”  (I Cor. 4:1) He emphasizes that the Apostles are merely servants of Christ, employed in doing His work, and sent on His errand, to dispense the mysteries of God. These mysteries are those truths that had been hidden from the world in ages and generations past. Paul makes clear his role – the Apostles role – the “minister’s role – that of being an aide or assistant, or steward. The Greek term for “minister” used by Paul in this particular instance carried the connotation of being a subordinate or servant. Actually, the expression Paul used was “under rower” – referring to the rowers – the oarsmen – of Roman galleys, who took their orders from the officer stationed a level above them on the ship. There were other words for “minister” that Paul used in other places, and which did not have quite the same meaning. Here he is clearly trying to use a very humbling term. He emphasizes the meaning then, by using the term, “stewards.”

A steward, as the word usually was used, referred to a slave or servant in the master’s household who was entrusted with property or money. Both “minister” and “steward” emphasize subordination to the master. However, in the use of “steward,” there is a particular stress on accountability. The “steward” had to render an account for the manner in which he carried out his master’s orders. The steward was the person who disbursed salaries to the laborers in the household, for instance – was accountable for his master’s money. “Stewards are expected to show themselves trustworthy,” (I Cor. 4:2) we read in the New English Bible. They had a great deal of responsibility, but definitely were subordinates.

Paul is quick to point out that he does not care much about what anyone else feels about him, as long as his Master – the Lord – is satisfied with his actions when He finally “comes again in his glorious majesty,” and passes judgment. This is a warning that human judgment doesn’t mean a thing. When the Lord comes, and reaches into our minds – “the hidden things of darkness” of each of us – He will determine how much praise we might receive – if we receive any at all!

All of this discussion of “ministers” and “stewards” – although it is in today’s readings primarily because of the upcoming Ember Days – also fits in with our Advent preparation for Christmas – that dual theme of Christ’s Comings – at Christmas, and again at the time of His return to be our Judge. We must be good stewards if we are to earn a place in the Heavenly Kingdom. Like the stewards in the household must account to their master, so too, we must give an account, when our Master comes! We must all be ministers of Christ – do His work here on earth as we spread His Gospel, and bring others into the fold. All of us are commissioned to do that – not just the ordained ministry!

Moving to the Gospel reading, we find reference to one of God’s early “ministers,” sent to perform a specific task. John the Baptist was sent to be the “forerunner” – to pave the way – to announce to the world that Christ was coming! While in prison, John sent two of his disciples to find out – to clear up for him – whether or not Jesus is the expected One. They asked directly, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3)  Jesus’ reply is that it is self-evident – tell John that “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up.” (Matt. 11:5)  This is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Isaiah 29:18, 35:5, and 61:1). Then follows quite a testimony for John, by Jesus, as He tells the crowd of followers that John is a prophet, and much more – he is the messenger sent to prepare the way for Him.

We heard some of that Old Testament prophecy in our first reading from Isaiah this morning – “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.” (35:5) we also hear prophecy of God coming with vengeance for those who have mistreated His people, and with recompense for those who have suffered. We hear the strong assurance – “He will come and save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)

We must be in a constant state of readiness for the coming of the Lord! By observing the seasons of the Church year, especially Advent, we are reminded of the need to be ready. It is disappointing that this season is not observed by more people – observed as a season of spiritual preparation for Christmas. Everyone today seems so involved in the material preparation – the social and physical activity – that the spiritual side is crowded out, and of course, many denominations do not observe the Advent season.

We are fortunate that we do observe it, and the Advent hymns can help set our minds on a proper preparation for this coming of our Lord. We just sang, in the gradual hymn (9), “A thrilling voice is sounding; ‘Christ is nigh,’ it seems to say.” We then hear the admonition to “Cast away the works of darkness” – the familiar command from the Advent collect – and then a promise that He “comes with pardon down from heaven.” He will “shield us with his mercy and draw near with words of love.”

This “casting away the works of darkness,” is often through our eyes being opened, more light being poured into the shadows of our minds. How does this occur? Through what agents can this happen? It is the ministers, the stewards, and the messengers – all of us – who are instruments, through which the light is poured on others, revealing previously hidden mysteries.

Amen

Hymns:

Processional – 10 – “On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry”

Gradual – 9 – “Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding”

Offering – 236 – “Once in royal David’s city”

Communion – 211 – “Come with us, O blessèd Jesus” (twice)

Recessional – 1 – “Come, thou long-expected Jesus”

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December 10, 2017                           2nd Sunday in Advent

Collects: p. 92 and 90

OT: Isaiah 55

Epistle: Romans 15:4-13

Gospel: St. Luke 21:25-33

A sermon by the Rev. Fr. Raleigh H. Watson, DDS, Rector, St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Church, Winchester, Virginia

“Come ye to the waters…buy…without money” (Isaiah 55:1)

          The Old Testament lesson this morning opens with a strange suggestion or actually – an invitation: “Come ye to the waters…buy…without money and without price.” We may wonder what this means –what is this business about “coming to the waters, and buying food and drink – and other goods – without any money?

In this instance, “coming to the waters” refers to the wharves, docks, and piers where ships would tie up and distribute their cargoes. The implication is that we may just wander about the displayed items and pick up anything that we might find appealing – without paying. As we move further into this passage, however, we might start to grasp what really is being said here. This is not about buying material things with money – it is a metaphoric passage about God’s Word; our Saviour; religious values; and Holy Scripture! All of this is available “without price”!

Then, we are cautioned against spending our money for that which is not bread. The “bread” in this passage is scripture. The “money” is our time and efforts – not cold, hard cash! We are being told not to waste our efforts on things that are not important. Does that not seem appropriate today – with all the “drivel” to which we are exposed? Think of television, movies, modern music – even printed news media. It is mostly inane – often useless and frequently of a sensational nature! Remember the quote from Benjamin Franklin – “Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see.”  That quotation is more appropriate today than it was in Franklin’s time. All right – maybe not – perhaps it has always been that way – I suppose so, or Franklin would not have commented on it. We should seek the “real bread” – the truly important things in life. This is another reminder of what is important at this time of the year, especially – as we prepare for and anticipate the birth of Our Lord. Our thoughts should be on Him.

We undergo many “swings” in our lives – various “ups and downs” in our personal situations, and as a nation, that affect our thinking, and just how we are fitting God into our lives at a particular time. Are we seeking that “real bread”?

Often – in a period of economic downturn, or an act of violence such as we experienced on September 11, 2001, or national tragedy such as a devastating storm or fire – people become discouraged and depressed – but such events might actually inspire many to seek the “true bread.”

Those of us of a certain age are reminded that during the Second World War, people certainly sought the Church to a degree that many had not previously. They were starved for the “real bread” in a time of danger and sorrow. In the towns where my family lived during the war, the churches were filled on Sundays, often with standing room only. We just commemorated December 7 – the seventy-sixth anniversary of our entry into that war. As I do every year at this time, I recall that period of my life rather vividly. That terrible war brought many people closer to God. Exercising their faith was “real bread” for many people, and it was available “without money.” I know of several priests and ministers of other denominations who went off to war as fighting men and came back to attend seminaries, and then became “soldiers” in another type of war. Their war experiences had made them aware – and “hungry” for the “real bread.”

We have all heard the expression, “there are no atheists in foxholes.” That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but there is no doubt that many men did meet God for the first time in such situations. So too, did many on the home front reach out to God for the first time, as they prayed for the safety of loved ones – and sought the Church as the most effective means of doing so – sought the “true bread.”

This “true bread” – scripture – is a feature in the other readings this morning, also. We read in the collect – the Lord “hast caused all holy scripture to be written for our learning.” The epistle mentions “the things that were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope,” (Romans 15:4) and then gives us a very seasonal prediction of our Lord’s First Coming: “There shall be a root of Jesse, and he shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.” (15:12) In the gospel from Luke, we hear of the signs that will predict His Second Coming and then Christ Himself telling us, “My words will not pass away.”  (Luke 21:33) My words – scripture – the “true bread”!

All of this emphasis on scripture originally led to this Sunday being known as “Bible Sunday,” throughout the world – although today it is recognized on different dates by many denominations. We don’t think of it so much in that manner in the Anglican tradition – we are more concerned with the Advent season right now – but it is a prominent feature of today’s propers, and Advent is a good time to be thinking of scripture. Bible reading should be a part of our Advent discipline – our preparation for Christmas.

The Church recognizes four ancient Advent themes: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Our scripture today touches on all of these, and in fact, the Advent collect mentions that Christ will “come again in His glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead,” and we pray that “we may rise to the life immortal.”  At death, we face that judgment, which will determine our outcome – heaven or hell. The readings today and throughout the Advent season can help us receive a favorable outcome at that judgment – if we truly take them to heart.

As we move deeper into the Advent season, let us keep before us these four themes: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. They will help keep us focused on the “big picture” – the “true bread.”

From time to time, all of us probably find ourselves in need of a little extra help – perhaps encouragement when we are a bit “low” or facing some sort of setback. We Christians know where to find the help we need. Our opening hymn this morning addresses it very nicely. (Hymn 402) We have that “Word of God, incarnate,” to help us through the rough spots. We have that “Lantern to our footsteps,” to light the way through difficult times.

So, perhaps when things are not going as well as we wish or when things even seem quite bleak, we may use that time to focus closely on determining just what is important in our lives. Actually, that is what Advent is supposed to be. It is the time of the year for us to look forward to the arrival of the Messiah – Our Lord and Savior – the “True Bread,” which comes to us at no cost on our part. He has paid the price – and for Him it was not a “no cost” situation!

Amen

Hymns:

Processional – 402 – “O Word of God incarnate”

Gradual – 544 – “Thy kingdom come, O God”

Offering – 4 – “Rejoice, rejoice, believers!”

Communion – 202, 2nd tune –“Draw nigh and take the Body of the Lord”

Recessional – 5, 1st tune – “Lo! He comes, with clouds descending”

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December 3, 2017                                     1st Sunday in Advent

Collect: p. 90

OT: Isaiah 28:14-22

Epistle: Romans 13:8-14

Gospel: St. Matthew 21:1-13

A sermon by the Rev. Fr. Raleigh H. Watson, DDS, Rector, St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Church, Winchester, Virginia

 “Love is the fulfilling of the Law.” (Romans 11:10)

          Last Sunday, we touched a little on the meaning of Advent, and in particular, how we might use the Advent season to prepare for Christmas. Because of the commercialism that has affected so many people’s attitudes toward Christmas, many do not use the Advent season as they should – to really prepare for the coming of Christ. There are so many distractions: shopping, parties, wrapping, mailing, decorating, baking, and other activities, that some find it hard to keep the real meaning of the season in mind.

The propers for this First Sunday in Advent – the beginning of the church year – give us some helpful advice on preparing for the coming of our Lord.

The collect makes clear the need for God in our lives, as we call upon Him to give us grace to “cast away the works of darkness” – only God can give us that grace! Then, it recognizes that Jesus Christ is the mechanism by which we may rise to Life Immortal in the last days. This collect is taken from the latter part of today’s epistle selection from Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul believed that the “last days” were soon to come – hence his sense of urgency. He said that our salvation is nearer than we believe!

The epistle tells us that if we love others, we will have fulfilled the law, then reviews the Ten Commandments and assures us, once again, that “love is the fulfilling of the Law.” (Romans 11:10)

The gospel for today would seem to be more appropriate on Palm Sunday if one looked at it historically. It does not seem to fit in with the Advent season. But in this instance, it is used as a symbol: a symbol of our Lord’s coming into the midst of us – in humility, meek, and sitting on an ass; becoming our Judge, and our Redeemer – and doing this through unparalleled love for us.

So, if we put all of these readings together, what do we find as the theme for this First Sunday in Advent? We find a thorough summary of Christian beliefs in these portions of scripture, and all of them are hinged on love; our love for God; His love for us; and our love for one another. This is the theme – to follow the commandment, to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” We have a reminder of this, as the “Summary of the Law,” in each service of the Holy Eucharist – except on the first Sunday of each month, when we recite the entire Decalogue, as we did this morning instead of the “Summary.”

We are given a pretty stiff challenge in this Epistle to the Romans. It is not easy in today’s world to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Keeping the Ten Commandments is not too difficult. We are given a list of actions which, for the most part, we are told to avoid. We are not to murder, steal, or covet – and so on. It is not too difficult to obey those commandments, but the part about loving our neighbors as ourselves, requires some positive action on our part, and for many of us, that is much more difficult. Because of the way people conduct themselves, it is sometimes very difficult to love them – such as those who are inconsiderate, or rude, or have taken advantage of us in business dealings, or social situations, or in politics.

But, we are told to love these people, these “neighbors,” and perhaps we might remember that there are several different kinds of love. So doing might help in understanding this “love thy neighbor” business.

We don’t have to love them as we do our family. It is not the kind of love that consists of concern for a spouse or children – perhaps pride in their accomplishments.

It is not the romantic sort of love one has for one’s spouse. Often, when we think of “love,” this is the only kind that comes to mind.  But, this romantic love certainly is not at all the type we are meant to have for our neighbor.

We are supposed to be friends with our neighbors – that is an expression of love, also – but this friendship is not quite the meaning of “love thy neighbor.”

What Paul really is saying, is for us to be concerned about our neighbors: to do everything possible for the wellbeing of others. We might describe this simply as doing things purely for the sake of others – putting others first.

And, what better time is there for us to put this “caring for our neighbor” into action than during the Advent season? This is the time when we are preparing for our Lord’s coming – His supreme gift, an act of love from a God who cares for us, forgives us for our many failings and truly loves us – shortcomings and all!

Paul always taught that Christian life is a life of love! Certainly this is the message in his epistle today. The Christian life actually began at Calvary with the supreme act of love for us on the Cross. That is when Christianity began, and gave us the Church – the community of all faithful people – the Body of Christ! As members of this community, we are to live in love – for God, for our neighbors, and for one another. This love is what made Christians different from early Jews. For Jews, the Law was the divinely given instrument for serving God. For Christians, as Paul wrote, love is the fulfilling of the Law. Love is central, for love is what God is! Remember – “God is Love?” (I John 4:8)

Paul seemed to “sum up” the Ten Commandments by suggesting that one who loves his neighbor as himself has fulfilled their requirements. In making this remark, Paul is assuming that we are acting on this love – actually doing good works for our neighbors.

There are many ways we may show our love for one another during Advent. We probably should start with a close examination of ourselves – our attitude toward others, our generosity of our time and, our talents, and our money. Most of us do get involved with special projects as Christmas approaches. We may provide gifts for the children in a needy family; we give to Christmas projects such as the Food Bank, or Salvation Army, or Red Cross, or local Social Services agency. We find ourselves doing a few more things for others than we do at other times of the year. We probably think of it as being in the “Christmas Spirit,” but in reality, we are carrying out those acts of love that we are directed to do in the Advent propers. We truly are observing the penitential Advent season.  Perhaps if we realize this and we really “key-in” to the season, we will be even more effective in “loving our neighbor.”

It is really unfortunate that the commercial side of Christmas takes over to the degree that it does. We are swamped with the Christmas theme – before Advent even begins. It is as though the outside world is not even aware of Advent. Many denominations do not observe it. Christmas music has already begun, except in the truly traditional churches such as ours.

There are many wonderful Advent hymns, which help in setting the theme properly for Advent.  Listen to the words of the hymns, today. They address our Lord’s coming (1), His freeing us from Satan’s bondage (7), the salvation we will receive through His love, the treasures of His grace that He brings to us, and provide an admonition to “cast away the works of darkness.” (9)

“Casting away the works of darkness and putting on the armor of light,” is another part of our Advent preparation. This season is a very appropriate time for us to examine our motives and our dealings with our fellow man – make any corrections that might be in order. This is casting away the works of darkness.

Asking God’s help in accomplishing these goals is “putting on the armor of light.” We need His help.  His help is there for us, if we ask for it, realizing our inadequacies and if we are willing to follow his directions.

“Putting on the armor of light” is praying daily, making our communion at His Holy Table each Sunday, asking for guidance before our various activities – and thanking Him for our countless blessings. All of these should be part of our regular year-round activities – but surely during the Advent season we should be even more careful to follow these guidelines. This “other” penitential season is placed just before Christmas for a very important reason. Let us use it properly!

Advent is a wonderful season – a time to really examine ourselves; a time to enjoy the inspiring Advent hymns; a time to do special things for people. And yes, with an Advent wreath, we do begin the countdown to Christmas and the coming of our Lord, into our midst as our King and Messiah, in humility.

Amen

Hymns:

Processional – 484 – “Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates”

Gradual – 1 – “Come, thou long-expected Jesus”

Offertory – 7 – “Hark the glad sound!

Communion – 201 – “Strengthen for service, Lord, the hands”

Recessional – 9 – “Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding”

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November 26, 2017                 Sunday Next Before Advent

Collect: p. 225

OT Lesson: Jeremiah 3:14-18

Lesson in place of Epistle: Jeremiah 23:5-8

Gospel: St. John 6:5-14

A sermon by The Rev. Fr. Raleigh H. Watson, DDS, Rector, St. Michel the Archangel Anglican Church, Winchester, Virginia

“Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost” (St. John 6:12) 

          We close out the church year this week, as today is the Sunday Next before Advent. Next Sunday, we begin a new church year, and the Advent season that will prepare us for the coming of our Lord at Christmas. To some, it may seem that today’s propers do not particularly relate to this important last Sunday in the Trinity season, or the upcoming Advent season. 

For instance, today’s gospel reading is the familiar “Feeding of the Five Thousand.” What connection can this have with this Sunday of the church year? Well, it is thought by some, that the reference to “gathering up that which remains,” might refer to “gathering up” all of the scripture that we have heard this past year, and making certain that we are putting it to proper use. That seems a bit farfetched. Another thought – perhaps it refers to “tidying up” our spiritual lives – “gathering up the loose ends” in our lives, in preparation for the coming Christmas season and the new church year – “picking up the clutter” and arranging things neatly for more efficient use. “Gathering up” does seem appropriate if we look at it in that context.

Another interesting line is found in the collect, as we begin our prayer, “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people.” From this line comes the popular name for this Sunday – “Stir-Up Sunday.” Perhaps we have become a bit “fixed” in our thinking and even in our prayers during the long Trinity season. Now it is time to “wake up” – to be “stirred up” for a fresh, new season. It is a time to evaluate ourselves, take stock, and perhaps correct our course for the coming year, so that we may be more useful to God in accomplishing His work.

Stirring up the wills of thy faithful people,” might refer to a strengthening of our intentions to follow God’s wishes and commandments. This, in turn, allows us to “plenteously bring forth the fruit of good works,” and as a result, be “plenteously rewarded.” Note that this is not a “cause and effect” situation. We do not do good works merely because we wish to receive something in return. No, we do good works because it is the right thing to do, and because of our love for God and the knowledge that He loves us. Then, God rewards us plenteously, because of His love, and because we have been faithful to His Word.

All in all, our propers today are quite an interesting “mix,” and if we analyze them a bit, we’ll find that they really are very appropriate for the Sunday leading us into Advent. Interestingly, we are given two readings from the prophet Jeremiah. That is a little unusual. Both the Old Testament lesson and the lesson appointed in place of the epistle, this morning, are taken from the book of the prophet Jeremiah. We often describe Jeremiah as a sad prophet, with a sad message, as he pronounced a prophecy of doom for Judah. His constant prophecies of bad things to come made him unpopular with the people of that land. Beginning in 627 BC and continuing for forty years, he begged the people of Judah to repent – continually told them that surrender to God’s will was the only hope for them. They did not heed his warnings, and in 586 BC, they were overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar, and deported to Babylon. The Babylonians were the instruments of God’s retaliation.

The theme of Jeremiah, then, is a warning of coming judgment. Of all the prophets, Jeremiah seems to be the one most concerned about personal faith and repentance. He was a sensitive person. He hated to be preaching “gloom and doom,” and was saddened by the unpopular stance he felt he had to take – that he had been commanded to prophesy. He was very hurt by the attitudes of his people towards him, and suffered a great deal of inner turmoil. Making his life even more lonely and unhappy was a command to him from God that, “Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.” (16:2)

Approaching Advent, we should think about these Jeremiah readings, and perhaps treat them as though they were written to those who live in our times. Remember his urging for personal faith and repentance. That is what kept him going in spite of all of his hardships. He was treated terribly, tried for his life, put in stocks, humiliated, forced to flee, and as we have mentioned in the past – at one point, he was thrown into a cistern, which was used as a dungeon! But he maintained his faith and stayed “on track” with his message. There is a lesson for us in Jeremiah – a lesson of deep faith and persistence in our beliefs.

Being the sensitive sort of person that he was, from time to time, Jeremiah attempted to intersperse his dark pronouncements with some upbeat words. That is what we read today in the other reading from Jeremiah – the lesson in place of an epistle. Here, he clearly predicts the coming of the Messiah – “Behold …I will raise unto David a righteous branch…a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” (Jer. 23:5) This is a perfect “lead-in” to Advent and the coming of our Lord! We need to be a bit “upbeat,” also!

The Gospel for today is one of the most heartwarming stories of Christ’s miracles – “The Feeding of the Five Thousand.” It is a warm story, one that has no “downside,” is a true miracle, and affects many, many people. It is not directly related to the coming of Advent, but we get a hint of it in the “gathering-up” line that was mentioned – “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” (St. John 6:12) Then, look at the last line – “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” (St. John 6:14) This is recognition of Christ as the promised Messiah! And, I imagine there were quite a few “stirred up” people on that countryside, when they realized what was happening! They were excited that “that Prophet” was in their midst!

How do we “gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost,” when we apply that phrase to the winding down of our church year? We might treat it much as we do the end of our personal fiscal or tax year. We look over what we have done, decide what we could have done to put us in a more favorable tax situation, perhaps – and make adjustments in how we handle our assets. We can do the same with the Church. Perhaps we’ll realize we haven’t been as regular as we should with the daily offices, or reading at home, or preparing for the services – such as reading the propers before coming to church each week, to have an idea of the theme.

We might decide that we could do more in the way of church attendance, or promptness. It’s a matter of “taking stock” – “gathering up the fragments” – and making plans to do something about it. Does it sound like something else many people do at the beginning of a new year? Yes, it’s making resolutions – for the new Church year! And, it is “tidying up” our lives, making certain that nothing be lost. It is being “stirred up” in our approach to a new year!

These propers, then, are quite broad in their topics, but definitely prepare us for Advent. We have two lessons from one of the Major Prophets, Jeremiah, with his sadness, hardships, and tremendous dedication, to serve as a model for our lives. We have a very wonderful story of the “Feeding of the Five Thousand,” showing Christ’s love and concern – and with little hints for our spiritual improvement. We have a collect that asks that we be roused in doing God’s work, and promises that we shall be “plenteously rewarded,” as we continue to do His good works.

Amen

Hymns:

Processional – 552 – “Soldiers of Christ, arise”

Gradual – 329 – “How bright appears the Morning Star”

Offertory – 351 – “Praise the Lord through every nation”

Communion – 195 – “Father, we thank thee, who hast planted”

Recessional – 554 – “Lead on, O King eternal”

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November 19, 2017                 23rd Sunday after Trinity

Collect: p. 222

OT: Isaiah 64

Epistle: Philippians 3:17- 21

Gospel: St. Matthew 22:15-22

A sermon by The Rev. Fr. Raleigh H. Watson, DDS, Rector, St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Church, Winchester, Virginia.

“Be ready… to hear the devout prayers of thy Church” (collect)

          Reading through the propers for this morning, one might have difficulty finding a common theme. However, there is a connection or “tie-in” – a somewhat subtle recurring reminder that we are expected to engage in prayer. If we analyze all of the readings, we’ll find at least an indirect admonition to do so. We pick up the theme in the first line of the collect this morning: “O God, our refuge and strength, who art the author of all godliness; Be ready, we beseech thee to hear the devout prayers of thy Church.” Simply said,God, we are going to be talking with you – please listen.” Keeping that line in mind, we’ll look at the rest of today’s readings.

The Old Testament lesson – the entire sixty-fourth chapter of Isaiah – is a long prayer on behalf of the people of Judah. As Isaiah prophesied over an extensive (forty-year) period – he saw many ups and downs, and toward the end of his time, he was an advisor to a “reasonably good” king – Hezekiah. During Hezekiah’s reign, the temple was repaired and Mosaic Law was brought back into use – all of this after a period of degradation under a number of pagan kings. And then, Hezekiah began to disregard Isaiah’s advice, and fell in with the wrong allies, which led to his defeat by the Assyrians. Isaiah continually prophesied that the Assyrians were God’s instruments to punish the people of Judah for their sins, but that – in the end – He would preserve Jerusalem. The prophecy was fulfilled.

As we read today’s portion, we find Isaiah bemoaning that God had not sent down fire to melt the mountains and cause the “waters to boil.” He believed that perhaps this would have brought the people into line, turned them around, and protected them from the Assyrians. He writes that these actions would have “made thy name known to thine adversaries,” and the “nations… tremble.” (64:2) Isaiah then explains why he feels that he can call on God to punish His enemies, and preserve His followers. He has faith in God’s fairness and compassion: “For men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen…what (God) hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.” (64:4)

He acknowledges that “We have sinned;” “we are unclean;” “our iniquities… have taken us away.” Here he speaks for all the people of Judah. We are not godly. “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou art our potter; and we are the works of thy hand.”  “You made us” – and now he prays, “don’t be angry with us forever.”

Isaiah mentions all of these shortcomings of the people and how much they already have been punished, and he completes the chapter – and today’s reading – with a plea. Because you are our Father; because “Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion a desolation, Jerusalem a wilderness”; because “Our beautiful house… is burned up… and our pleasant things are laid to waste” – “Wilt thou hold thy peace and afflict us very sore?” Isaiah asks if the people are to be put through even more – he implies that they have been punished enough! Here, he sets an example of prayer as he prays to God for the people of Judah – for their concerns, and for our concerns. Prayer! 

Of course, at the very end of his book, Isaiah prophesies that Jerusalem will be rebuilt, the Messiah will reign, and there will be peace and prosperity. God’s fairness will see to that! The book of Isaiah ends on a happy note!

In this morning’s epistle, Paul is pretty brash again – as he often is. He tells the Philippians to “be followers …of me,” to act as those who use us for an example of how to live – for “our citizenship is in heaven.” Paul, of course, admonished all to “pray without ceasing,” as he wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonians (I Thess 5:17). If we follow his example, we, too, will “pray without ceasing!” One of the primary examples Paul sets for others to follow is prayer!

The selection continues, stating that we look for our Saviour to come from heaven, change our worldly bodies into a glorious heavenly body, and “subject all things unto himself.” We are citizens of heaven and followers of Paul’s example. As such, we pray often, and as Christ taught us, we direct our prayers to “Our father, who art in heaven.” We, too, are “citizens of heaven.”

Paul also warns against the “enemies of the cross of Christ.” Here, he was speaking of non-believers. These were those who did “lip service” – professed to be Christians, but did not really believe, or live their lives as Christians. No prayer there!

The Pharisees, in today’s gospel account, thought they had come up with another way to trap Jesus into making an indefensible response to a question. He turned the tables on them of course, as He answered with a question that made His position clear, and yet, did not offend anyone. “Render… unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” This statement seems to downplay the importance of the money and the government it represents. If one thinks about it, this is another way of saying that we are citizens of heaven! That is what counts – the money is unimportant! And what does one render unto God? First of all – sincere prayer! Love, faithfulness, obedience – all is demonstrated through regular prayer!

We have many opportunities for prayer in the course of our workday, our regular weekly routine, in church, out of church – just about anywhere! Remember – “unceasing” – that description makes it sound as though we should never stop. Perhaps that is what we do as Christians. We have God on our minds all of the time and in our thoughts as we embark on any task or venture.

There were many times in my practice of dentistry, when I would slip over to my private office for a word of prayer – usually involving a difficult patient, or “tricky” procedure. I suppose patients were praying even more than I was! Most of us probably do have a word of thanks before meals; perhaps a bedtime prayer; and I hope many of you read the daily offices – morning and evening. Bishop Hewett recommends a word of prayer as one first wakes up in the morning. One might dedicate the day’s activities to God, or ask that He guide one through the day. That’s one I have trouble remembering to do. Too sleepy, I guess!

The point of this is that we should all have a number of regular times for prayer in our daily routines. If possible, it should be a quiet time, when we will not likely be interrupted. Early in the morning is the one time I can count on that – so as soon as I come downstairs in the morning is my regular time for Morning Prayer.

We have several opportunities here at the church each week for personal prayer, in conjunction with our regular services. The period before the service begins is an excellent time and should be used for prayer and review of our interactions with God and the people in our lives. The Wednesday morning service is a wonderful opportunity for such prayer and meditation. The church is open a good half-hour or more before the service begins and is absolutely quiet. Again, I commend that service to you. It is quite special to the few of us who attend regularly.

As I have reminded you in the past, one should try to be in the pew ten minutes or so before a service begins to allow adjusting one’s mood to the “worship mode.” This is the time for that prayer and meditation! May I urge that you try to do that?

God is ready to listen to us as we pray – we’ve asked Him to “Be ready… to hear the devout prayers of thy Church.” Let’s not keep Him waiting!

Amen

Hymns:

Processional – 577 – “Awake, my soul, stretch every nerve”

Gradual – 477 – “God himself is with us”

Offertory – 499 – “Before thy throne, O God, we kneel”

Communion – 189 – “And now, O Father, mindful of the love”

Recessional – 287– “Give praise and glory unto God”

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November 12, 2017       22nd Sunday after Trinity

Collect: p. 220

OT: Ecclesiasticus 27:30-28:7

Epistle: Philippians 1:3-11

Gospel: St. Matthew 18:21-35

 

A sermon by The Rev. Fr. Raleigh H. Watson, DDS, Rector,  St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Church, Winchester, Virginia. 

“Keep thy household the Church in continual godliness” (Collect)

          Once again, this morning, we find a similarity in the Old Testament and gospel readings. In the Old Testament reading – from the apocryphal book, Ecclesiasticus – we read, “Forgive thy neighbor the hurt that he hath done unto thee, so shall thy sins also be forgiven when thou prayest.” (28:2) Another verse reads (and, it is a question,) “One man beareth hatred against another, and doth seek pardon from the Lord?”(28:5) The gospel discussion this morning, from Matthew, describes the treatment of a servant, who after having had his own debt forgiven, refused to do the same for a fellow-servant, and consequently, was thrown into prison and “delivered to the tormentors.” This is the “Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.” The message in both of these readings is very clear – one must forgive in order to be forgiven.

We are warned that our fate will be the same as that servant if we do not, from our hearts, forgive our brother his trespasses. “From our hearts,” means that we must really, deeply, want to forgive – it is not to be done lightly, and merely to make us eligible for the same loving forgiveness! Perhaps you remember, from your grade school days, as I do from mine,  that some sort of squabble might develop between two classmates – maybe leading to blows. The teacher would intervene and ask each to apologize to the other, and then to the whole class. There was no sincerity in such apologies, and occasionally the affair was taken up again after school. We often find today that a prominent public figure – in sports or politics, for instance – demonstrates some sort of character lapse, is “caught,” and then comes before the public to offer an apology, often doing so with his spouse at his side. These apologies are not “from the heart”! They would not be made, had not the person’s lapse come to light.

This eighteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel is Jesus’ longest dissertation on “forgiveness,” and also speaks of “humility.” In it we find mention of “becoming as a little child” – being “born again,” how to reconcile with an offended brother, and “the Parable of the Lost Sheep.” It ends with today’s segment – which opens with Peter’s question: “How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” (18:21) Peter even suggests what he thinks is a large number – “Seven times?” Of course, Jesus’ reply – “Seventy times seven” – is not intended to be a specific number, but an indication of endless forgiveness that we should show for those who trespass against us. And, by the way, we are not supposed to “keep score” – only God should do that!

This gospel reading has a reputation as the “easiest” of all the Sunday gospels on which to base a sermon. The message is so evident – we must forgive, in order to receive forgiveness. I’m not so certain that that makes it easier to use as a text than are some others with more hidden meanings! There are, however, some interesting little twists and implications in this reading.

The amount of the servant’s debt is mentioned as ten thousand talents, which is insurmountable for a servant, and today, in our society, would amount to millions of dollars. We can’t help wondering how he could have “run up” such a debt to the “certain king” – his “lord,” in the story. The parallel here is that our sins – our “debts” – are also insurmountable in size and no comparison at all to the affronts that we may feel we have suffered at the hands of our neighbors.

We notice the extreme degree of compassion shown by the king. The servant asked for a little more time to pay, and offered the promise that he would pay all of the debt, even though they all knew there was no possible way for him to raise that amount of money. The king’s reply was not just to extend the time, but to “write off” the entire amount. God is willing to do that for us. His forgiveness is total! Christ has paid our debt, and we are free from it forever!

Having been forgiven from his huge debt, wouldn’t we expect the subject of today’s parable to be so full of thanks that he would pass some of his good fortune on to his fellow man? Instead, we find him seeking out a debtor – we read he “found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence.” That sounds as though he went looking for this person. Then, he “laid hands on him, and took him by the throat,” and demanded payment. When the debtor now begged for the same mercy that was bestowed on the servant, it was refused and instead he was sent to prison. There is no compassion here!

We come to church, make our confessions, receive absolution – are forgiven for our wrongdoing, but are we willing to do the same for those who might have stepped on our toes? This parable really hits home. True believers are both forgiven and forgiving.

One of the prayers to God in the collect this morning is that He may “keep thy household the Church in continual godliness.” One characteristic of “godliness” is to be forgiving. At home and here in church, we get down on our knees and pray for forgiveness for ourselves, but how do we do on the other end of this proposition? It is not easy, sometimes, to overlook the infractions that we feel have been committed against us, but really, how many of them are anywhere near the magnitude of our own missteps?

The very beautiful epistle selection this morning is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Written in a Roman prison in 62 AD, it is a “thank you” to the people in Philippi, who had sent him a gift – some of it, money – and showed real compassion for one in need. As such, it is filled with glowing compliments about the people at Philippi, with assurances that they are in his prayers and also with expressions of confidence about their future in the heavenly kingdom. He states that he is confident “that He which hath begun a good work in you in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (1:6)  In other words, we might say that God will “keep His household the Church in continual godliness.”

Paul’s epistle to the Philippians is surprisingly “upbeat,” coming as it did, from a prisoner. But, Paul was writing to the people of the church which was probably most dear to his heart, and certainly the one that caused him the least amount of trouble. Even so, there were some minor disagreements within the church at Philippi, and farther on in this epistle, Paul pleads with them for unity, “Stand fast in the Lord…be of the same mind in the Lord.” We must follow those directions, also!

If we follow Paul’s advice, and “stand fast in the Lord,” we will ask God for help in examining ourselves, and perhaps evaluating situations in which we find ourselves. So doing will aid us in being more forgiving to our neighbors. If we can be “of the same mind in the Lord” – center our lives on Him – perhaps we will find ourselves more in agreement with our fellow man and not so much at odds with him. A factor in this is to try to look at situations from the viewpoint of others. If we could do this, we might find that we would not need to forgive or be forgiven nearly as often.

We human beings frequently seem to be subject to disagreements with one another. They range from minor spats over seemingly insignificant incidents, all the way to serious problems with fellow workers, neighbors, and even within families – those are some of the most tragic. If we could just realize that even the worst of these is insignificant compared to our transgressions against God – put them in the proper perspective, and not seek retaliation over every little thing – perhaps we could find ourselves truly forgiving many of those people – truly, and “from our hearts”!

Amen

Hymns:

Processional – 388 – “I love thy kingdom, Lord”

Gradual – 363 – “Lord, of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy”

Offertory – 485, 1st tune – “Jesus, thou Joy of loving hearts”

Communion – 208, 1st tune – “Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face”

Recessional – 396 – “The Church’s one foundation”

And 142 – Nat’l Anthem at end after Angelus, in place of postlude.

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November 5, 2017                                    21st Sunday after Trinity

Collect: pp. 218, 256 (All Saints)

OT: Isaiah 59:15b-21

Epistle: Ephesians 6:10-20

Gospel: St. John 4: 46-54

A sermon by The Rev. Fr. Raleigh H. Watson, DDS, Rector, St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Church, Winchester, Virginia

“Be strong in the Lord… Put on the whole armor of God. Stand against the wiles of the devil. We wrestle against… powers, rulers of darkness, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:10-12) …“open my mouth boldly.” (Ephesians 6:19)

 

Reading through those lines in the epistle for today, we might notice how closely they relate to us. They could apply to our congregation; to the Diocese of the Holy Cross; and, in fact, to all who are concerned about the departure from scripture and tradition, and the fragmentation that is taking place today throughout the Church. We are “wrestling against the powers of darkness.”  “Spiritual wickedness in high places” seems to describe some of the key problems the Church is facing today. Does that expression not bring to mind the “high places” in many churches where there definitely seems to be “spiritual wickedness”? No longer is the best candidate necessarily the one chosen as a bishop or other church leader. Indeed it is often not even a legitimate candidate – one with valid credentials! Many do not meet the biblical standards! Today, much is based on “political correctness.”

That is one reason that many of us left our former denominations – those “sinking ships” – and God has provided this “lifeboat” for us in the form of the Diocese of the Holy Cross. (Those are terms used by our former Bishop, Robert Waggener – “sinking ship” and “lifeboat” – very appropriate and a perfect description that I like to use!

Many of us have gone through a great deal of agony to arrive where we are today. Several of you have talked with me about your own experiences in your former churches. As a lifelong, very regular attendee who loved the Episcopal church and depended on it for comfort, guidance, solace, and the opportunity to worship our Lord in the manner I thought was proper – I felt betrayed, abandoned, and very confused, when I realized how radically things were changing. That “ship” was sinking! I held on for quite a few years, knowing that something was going very wrong, but seeing no solution or alternative. The decision to leave was heartrending. Many of you have been in the same predicament.

Like many others, I also felt that perhaps I should stay “on board,” remain in the Episcopal Church, and try to change the direction in which things were heading. But, it had gone way too far for that to be a possibility any longer. The hull of that that sinking ship was badly damaged, the decks were almost awash – it was time to get into the “lifeboats”! With the 1979 so-called “Book of Common Prayer,” and the usage that goes with it, the Anglican traditions were no longer kept, not taught, and not thought to be important. Holy Orders were opened to women – and to men with all sorts of impediments. Confirmation became optional. Communion was offered to anyone, regardless of belief, or very young age. Full communicant status was opened to those “received” from almost any denomination, without any real teaching of Anglican doctrine. As these people then became elected to vestries, and having no “feel” for Anglican tradition, the decks of that “sinking ship” slipped below the surface and water began pouring into the hull at an alarming rate. The ship was doomed!

That is why trying to work within that group could not succeed. There are very few people with Anglican roots in it anymore! It has become something very different – very Protestant – more like a Presbyterian, Methodist, or non-denominational group.  Most of us here today have realized that, and that is why we have chosen to make that painful break, and affiliate with this wonderful group!

Unfortunately, there are too many small groups within the “Traditional” or “Continuing” movement. That is a major weakness of our situation. We would be far stronger if we could have some unification of the various traditional or “continuing” jurisdictions. There are more than forty separate groups, nationally – and among those, there is still failure to agree completely on doctrinal matters such as interpretation of biblical standards for clergy. Such standards seem pretty clear to us.

Bishop Hewett is committed to reuniting as many of the various groups as possible. His Anglican Fellowship of the Delaware Valley was an early model for that kind of togetherness. He brought together many of the different Anglican groups in his area into a “fellowship” that he hopes will eventually recognize each other’s bishops, Holy Orders, and sacraments. The recently-signed Concordat, brings together four of the national traditional groups into full communion, provides for exactly that sort of acceptance, and is another step in the right direction. (These four jurisdictions are The Anglican Catholic Church, The Anglican Church in America, The Anglican Province of America, and The Diocese of the Holy Cross.) The Bishop’s many trips to England and Scandinavia and all over the United States are further evidence of his efforts. He really is trying to bring things together – to get us out of the “lifeboats” and back on firm ground – or at least on a seaworthy vessel!

Those of us, who have been faced with this dilemma of a “decaying” church, have had to choose from several options – none of them perfect. The choices:

  1. We could have ignored the changes, like so many have done – let ourselves be “modernized” away from tradition and scripture. This is not possible for most of us. My former rector in that other church thought I took things too seriously. That’s one problem today! Too many people are not paying serious attention to what is happening! They are not “girt about with truth,” and not “wearing the whole armor of God.” The “rulers of darkness” are being allowed to enter.
  2. Some chose to remain in their former church, but tried to find a congregation in that denomination that was attempting to remain as traditional as possible. That is out of the question today – there aren’t any remaining! That approach was doomed to failure anyway, could be only a temporary measure, and in the meantime, any tithes and offerings went in part to fund the very “spiritual wickedness in high places,” to which these people objected.
  3. Others may have dropped out entirely or affiliated with another denomination. Even our former Bishop Waggener left our diocese for the Orthodox Church. Others have become Roman Catholics. Both options are fine, but are not viable choices for a devout Anglican, who desperately wishes to remain one! It does not solve any problems. In a way, it merely ignores them.
  4. Or, one may follow the route that has brought us here to St. Michael’s, and affiliate with a group which, though small, has the values, traditions, and purity of Holy Orders that we treasure. The disadvantage is that we are rather sparsely settled and scattered. In some ways, this is the hardest to follow of the four options, but certainly the most rewarding!          The central message of the epistle today is to “be strong, put on the armor of God, and stand against the wiles of the devil.” I believe that is what the traditional churches are doing. I certainly believe that is what we at St. Michael’s are doing! The devil is at work, trying to disrupt and tear down the Church. “Divide and conquer” is a basic military tactic, and one that the devil often is likely to use. We need to be aware of that and try to eliminate the fractionalization that has weakened the “continuing church” movement.

There is a terrifically important role for every one of you to play in this continuing struggle, as each of you must also “open your mouth boldly.” Each of you must put on that “Armor of God,” of which we heard in the epistle and to which the Old Testament lesson refers. Isaiah also tells us that “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” We are seeing that “flood” in the Church – and we are that “standard against him”! Christians must be aware of what is happening in the Church, be able to speak out when they see this “spiritual wickedness,” voice disapproval, and bring others into groups such as ours, where such things are not happening! We have plenty of space in our “lifeboat” to rescue those who are sinking! Let’s bring them aboard! We must bring them aboard if we are to survive! We need members! All of us are quite concerned about the future of Saint Michael’s – and of all the traditional churches such as ours. But, there are some very disturbing realities that we have to face.

  1. The decline in church attendance and membership that is found in all denominations has affected us, also. Many people simply are no longer interested in religion!
  2. Our liturgy – so dear to us! – is not attractive to all people – especially young people! They like the modern music, casual attire, informality, and “big screen” presentations, such as might be found in large Protestant churches. They might prefer sermons that are more contemporary, less judgmental, and not based on a rigid set of propers, such as we use. They might be more interested in a “youth center” format – not so much a liturgical form of worship – allowing them to “go to church” without really “going to church.”
  3. The family schedule, these days, is so crowded with meetings, school activities, and sports events, that Sunday has become another spot to place some such activities – especially sports. Years ago, that would not have been done.

With all of this, it is easy to become discouraged about our future. However, the story of the sick son of the nobleman has an encouraging message. If we have the faith, we shall be healed. If we traditionalists have faith and believe we are doing the right thing in making this journey, then God will heal us, use us to heal His Church, bring it back together, back into His fold, from which it has strayed.                                                                                       Amen

Hymns:

Processional – 551 – “A Mighty fortress is our God”

Gradual – 517 – “Thine arms, O Lord in days of old”

Offertory –339 – “O Lamb of God, still keep me” (Reg tune – St Christopher)

Communion – 201 – “Strengthen for service, Lord, the hands”

Recessional – 563 – “He who would valiant be”

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October 29, 2017           20th Sunday after Trinity        Comm. Christ the King

Collects: pp. 217, Missal

OT: Ecclesiastes 9:4-10

Epistle: Ephesians 5:15- 21

Gospel: St. Matthew 22:1- 14

A sermon by The Rev. Fr. Raleigh H. Watson, DDS, Rector, St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Church, Winchester, Virginia

On the Ordo Kalendar, this last Sunday in October is designated as “The Feast of Christ the King.” This is one of those feast days that most Protestant denominations do not celebrate. Indeed, even most of us who grew up in the Episcopal Church probably are not accustomed to such an observation, unless we attended a so-called “high” church.  We do not always celebrate it as the main theme of this Sunday here at St. Michael’s – but if I do not, I like to commemorate it with the collect and at least mention it. This feast is a relatively new one – established by Pope Pius XI in 1925. On this day, we pray in the collect for the conversion of all to Christ, and for peoples around the world to recognize Him as King, and for countries to bring their laws into conformation with His teachings. Well – there’s a good idea! Maybe such laws as those pertaining to marriage and “right to life” should be brought back into conformance with God’s teachings, as they were until the last few decades! In the collect, we pray, “Mercifully grant that the kindreds of the earth which are wounded and dispersed by sin, may speedily be knit together under His gracious sovereignty.” This is the only way to peace! This is most important at times like these! Knit together, and with laws in conformance with God’s wishes – would that not be wonderful?

However, today we will concentrate on the theme for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity. The collect for that Sunday reads, in part:

 

“…of thy bountiful goodness…keep us from all things that may hurt us; that we…may cheerfully accomplish those things which thou commandest.” (collect)

          This collect is a wonderful reminder of the “give and take,” relationship that we believers have with God. Yes – of His “bountiful goodness,” God will keep us safe, out of trouble, sheltered, fed, and clothed. That’s an enormous amount on the “take” side of the equation, from our standpoint. In return, we pray that we will be enabled to follow cheerfully His commandments – not really a whole lot to “give” for these benefits.

Reading today’s epistle, from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we find some guidance in following His commandments. Let’s break this reading down into its components, and see what it says, and how it may be of help to us. Remember that this letter was not written to address any particular problem, as were some of Paul’s other epistles, and may not even have been intended solely for the Ephesians. Quite likely, it was written for general distribution to all of the churches around the Mediterranean and in Asia.

Paul wrote this epistle to remind his readers that they are very rich in the love of Christ, and through the many gifts received by virtue of that love. These gifts include adoption, redemption, forgiveness, wisdom, life itself, the Grace of the Holy Spirit, and citizenship – all of which eventually will lead to life in the Heavenly Kingdom.

Paul opens this section with the phrase, “See then, that ye walk circumspectly.” (Ephesians 5:15) Pay attention; be aware; watch what is going on around you! Be on guard for those things happening in your neighborhood, in your community, in your church – indeed, everywhere – those things that may not be appropriate for Christians – and may be dangerous to all. “Walk circumspectly,” he says – be cautious; be careful! “Be not as fools” – unwise men! “But as wise” – be thoughtful, careful, and act in a sensible manner, always looking out for the snares of Satan. And, we must have not only the wisdom, but also the strength and courage to resist his enticements.

“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil,” (Ephesians 5:16) is the next phrase, and it is a little confusing. However, in the New English Bible, we will find this wording: “Use the present opportunity to the full, for these are evil days” – much easier to comprehend. This applies to us today also, for we are faced with all kinds of evil works, everywhere we look. These days in which we live are truly “evil days”! Today, as in Paul’s time, we run into corruption, opposition to God, blasphemy, difficulties of all kinds, and threats to the survival of the Church – and of the whole world. However, in our times, modern technology makes such things as corruption, abortion, abuse of various substances, and the spread of pornography – all kinds of improper behavior – much easier to accomplish. We need to be very alert and on guard at all times! We need that “courage,” of which we spoke!

“Be not unwise, be understanding,” (Ephesians 5:17) refers to being enlightened through prayer and study, to know “what the will of the Lord is,” how it is revealed through His Holy Word, and to know what He wants us to do. Well – deep down, in most situations, do not we really know how God would prefer us to act?

The phrase about not “being drunk with wine” (Ephesians 5:18) was placed here probably because this was the time of the year when “new wine” was being drawn, but it is yet another reminder to think with a clear head in matters of morals, religion, and character. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit,” (Ephesians 5:18) is the next line, and this, “be filled,” in the Greek language, had a little more meaning than in ours. It had a connotation of continuing the process, or being filled moment by moment. Yesterday’s “filling with the Spirit” would not do for today – it must be a continuing process.

We heed this admonition to “be filled with the Spirit,” by following the directions in the next line – “speaking to ourselves in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts, and giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19) We do this through our daily prayers at home, our studies, and our services here in our church, at least weekly, and more often, when able – do not forget our midweek service on Wednesday!

“Submitting ourselves one to another in the fear of God,” (Ephesians 5:21) recognizes that Christians treat one another with respect, with warmth, and with an effort to avoid rudeness or harshness in relationships with one another. A congregation is a family – and this one at St. Michael’s always has been an exceptional example of that characteristic!

So, in the collect, we pray for protection, and that we may follow the commandments. In the epistle, we find some help in obeying those commandments, but also some warnings about the pitfalls in this secular world. The Old Testament lesson, from Ecclesiastes, also makes some observations about this world, and the state it is in, and gives us some suggestions.

First, we are told that as long as one lives, there is hope for his redemption, therefore we must always be ready – “dressed in white; head anointed with oil.” (Ecclesiastes 9:8) White symbolizes cheerfulness, purity – and perhaps being dressed for a feast or special occasion. It is never too late to change one’s ways, as long as there is life. “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of thy life” (Ecclesiastes 9:9) – this seems to be a command to be faithful to one spouse – forever. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might,” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) is an urge to be diligent and industrious. All of these are good advice for those seeking to keep the commandments.

Moving to the gospel appointed for today, we find the very familiar story of the wedding feast – the preparation for the banquet, and how it unfolded. The implication is that we are asked to come to the feast by God, to honor His Son. Many do not heed the invitation, but ignore it and go on with their business. Some of the messengers are treated badly, and even killed!  He continues to make preparations, sends more and more invitations, through the various saints, prophets, and holy men and women, down through the centuries. We continue to ignore Him. Finally, the banquet is held, and some show up “without the proper wedding garment” – which really is a “robe of righteousness” – an internal state of being – not a piece of cloth!

“Many are called” – God’s invitation is issued to all of us! But, “few are chosen” – not everyone who tries to enter, will gain admittance. Not all are chosen to receive salvation. They do not have the proper wedding garment – that is, the proper inner state of being, and the sanctification of the Spirit. This is the strait gate, and narrow way, which few find. We enter it through that “give and take” process, which we mentioned as we opened today.

Are we prepared in body and soul to do what God hast commandest? Are we ready to enter through the strait gate? Do we have the proper wedding garment? Our propers today give us plenty of help in being ready and able to answer those questions properly. By God’s grace all of us all are called. May we, by our actions, thoughts, words, and deeds, be chosen! We pray that God may “keep us from all things that may hurt us; that we…may cheerfully accomplish those things which He (thou) commandest.” (collect)

Amen

Hymns:

Processional – 280 – “God, my King, thy might confessing”

Gradual – 292 (tune 53) – “Songs of praise the angels sang”

Offertory – 524 – “God of grace and God of glory”

Communion – 203 – “My God, thy table now is spread”

Recessional – 484 – “Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates”

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October 22, 2017           19th Sunday after Trinity

Collect: p. 215

OT: Job 24:1-17

Epistle: Ephesians 4:17-32

Gospel: St. Matthew 9:1-8

A sermon by the Rev. Fr. Raleigh H. Watson, DDS, Rector, St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Church, Winchester, Virginia

“Mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts” (collect)

 

We Christians are fortunate in having a virtual “army” of allies to help us as we face the trials and challenges of this life. We recognize one of those as we pray the collect for today and ask God to “Mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts.” “All things!” We’ll come back to that phrase in a few moments. The Holy Spirit – the One who is there to help us, guide us, and protect us – to lead us in making right choices in our lives – the “Prime Mover” – is the One who gets things going and is one of our strongest allies! We have many others!

Orthodox Christians also feel comfortable in calling on the Holy Mother to intercede on our behalf. That is what we do in the Angelus or at any time when we ask Mary for intercessions. She is another strong ally.

We know also, that we have “Guardian Angels” and patrons such as St. Michael, who constantly watch over us. We may have a particular saint associated with us – perhaps through our birthday – with whom we might have an especially strong feeling of closeness. My birthday is St. Bartholomew’s feast day, so I always feel a special relationship with him.

Also, we are all parts of various groups who have patrons, and because of that patronage, we may have a connection or feel a presence as we face danger, trials or hardships. For instance, St. Apollonia is the patron saint of dentistry, one who surely helped keep me on the right track as I practiced that profession for many years! Another example: as I was preparing a homily for the feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, one year, I discovered that she is the patron of aircrew members and aircraft pilots. I never knew this, and now feel that perhaps she was with me all along, as I functioned in both of those capacities! Who knows? – But a nice thought!

Some of you may know that St. Thérèse of Lisieux is Bishop Hewett’s favorite saint, and that is the reason that our Anglican Church Women’s group takes its name from her – the Guild of. St. Thérèse. All of you ladies should feel a closeness to her.

These angels and saints are parts of our “team.” Every one of us has several “special” saints in his life, whether he is a teacher, florist, farmer, parent, soldier, or what-have-you! There are several patrons for everyone! As I mentioned, in my group, I have Bartholomew, Apollonia, and Thérèse – and all of us here certainly should include St. Michael.

The point of this is that Christians are never alone. There are clergy – of course – and church family members, our own family members, and all three members of the Holy Trinity, who are ready, willing, and actually eager to be of help to us! Because of our belief in the “Communion of Saints,” we have a huge number of other helpers at our side – also willing and eager to be of assistance. Think how the numbers of those allies are reduced if one is not a Christian believer! There is not much left! The only requirements for all of this help are that we believe in Christ as our Savior, allow the Holy Spirit to direct and rule our hearts, and have faith in God!

Our gospel  reading this morning gives us an example of the sort of faith some people are capable of demonstrating. When He saw the four men bringing the man to Him and sensing their faith, Jesus pronounced forgiveness of the paralytic’s sins! This action surprised everyone. Jesus had been healing people and performing all sorts of miracles, but forgiving sins was another matter! The scribes and Pharisees, who had reasoned that only God could forgive sins, were outraged and immediately, cries of blasphemy broke out. Jesus, of course, replied that the Son of Man has the power on earth to forgive sins, turned to the man and told him to arise and walk! And, he did, while everyone “marvelled.” (Matthew 9:8) 

It is interesting in this story, that Jesus recognized the faith being shown, not only by the paralytic, but also by the four friends – “Jesus, seeing their faith,” we read (Matthew 9:2)  – he is referring to the faith of the four friends, as well as that of the sick man! Especially when we think of the Mark and Luke versions, these men did show a great deal of faith. Today’s account from Matthew, omits the colorful part of this story as the four friends climbed up on a roof with a complete cripple on his bed, removed the roof tiles, arranged some sort of rope/sling affair, and lowered this man into the midst of the crowd. They must have had faith that Jesus could provide a cure!

This is one of a series of ten miracles performed by Jesus that reveal His authority over every realm – disease, demons, death, and nature. His actual works and deeds support his words and verify his claims. The theme of Matthew’s gospel is “Christ as King,” and the miracles are presented to illustrate the power of the King. In this particular incident, Jesus was inviting publicity. He wanted people to know that He could forgive sins, and He used this miracle as evidence. The physical healing was proof that the spiritual cure, the man’s forgiveness, was real.

The ancient Jews believed that illness was a punishment for sin, and its cure was a sign of the breaking of sin’s power. Maybe that concept was pretty accurate. We know today that physical health and mental health are deeply entwined. When the man in this story received forgiveness, arose, and walked out of that building, he became a new man – physically and spiritually whole!

The epistle today also speaks of becoming a new man. Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians to make Christians more aware of their position in Christ and to draw upon their spiritual source in daily living. In today’s segment, we are given a “blueprint” for living the Christian life: for becoming a new man. It contains a list of transgressions – large and small – and broad enough to include almost everyone. Who among us hasn’t at least “let the sun go down on our wrath” (Ephesians 4:26) on some occasions? This Sunday often falls in the middle of a controversial election season, as it does this year. When it does, I sometimes find myself struggling with this line – I frequently seem to have trouble controlling my wrath. As I mull over the damage to our country and the damage to the Church – largely brought about by political correctness and political pandering, I find controlling wrath to be quite difficult. I have to call on my “army” of allies to help me through.

Today’s collect fits the epistle and gospel particularly well. In it, we pray that the Holy Spirit will in all things direct and rule our hearts. It would be helpful this week to read this collect as we begin and end each day. It would be a good prayer to use as we begin any activity – “in all things direct and rule our hearts.” If we ask for direction and rule as we follow the guidelines in today’s epistle, and count on the forgiveness of sins and absolution outlined in the gospel, we would indeed be healthier spiritually, mentally, and physically. Our outlook on life would improve; we would be much better armed to meet life’s challenges, temptations, and trials, and as a bonus, we would be much more effective servants of God in all of our activities – “…in all things”!

Amen

Processional – 158 (2nd tune) – “O splendor of God’s glory bright”

Gradual – 413 – “Lord, as to thy dear cross we flee”

Offertory – 344 – “O love how deep, how broad, how high”

Communion – 211 – “Come with us, O Blessed Jesus” (short – sing twice)

Recessional – 567 – “Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us”

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(The Bishop visited and preached on Oct. 15, so I do not have a sermon to post.)

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October 8, 2017             17th Sunday after Trinity

Collect: p. 213

OT: Jeremiah 13:15-21

Epistle: Ephesians 4:1-6

Gospel: St. Luke 14:1-11

A sermon by The Rev’d Fr. Raleigh H. Watson, DDS, Rector, St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Church, Winchester, Virginia.

“Humility, Patience, and Love: Fruits of the Spirit”

           The rather short epistle reading, this morning, outlines for us just what a Christian life should entail – humility, patience, and love. Then, it explains that, regardless of our vocation or our calling, there is a tremendous unity within the Christian Church, in that there is “One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4:5-6) Well, maybe that “unity” is not quite what it should be, today. Recognizing that, we usually pray for the unity of the Church in our bidding prayer before the Eucharist.

“Humility,” “Patience,” “Love,” and “Unity,” then, are four of the strengths of the Christian and his Church, which we will discuss this morning. There are others, but we will limit our discussion to these four this morning.

The first three, “humility,” “patience,” and love,” are personal traits that we must develop, and are some of the “Fruits of the Spirit,” about which we read in scripture so often.  These “fruits,” are often referred to as “Christian Virtues,” which means they are characteristic of the heart and mind that we should have if we are truly trying to walk in God’s ways and serve Him with gladness. These virtues are characteristic of God, himself, and if we believe that we are created in His image and likeness, then – as Christian believers – we too, should exhibit these traits.

“Unity,” on the other hand, is a collective strength – a characteristic of the Church as a whole, which exists because we are of one mind in our belief in God.

The first “Fruit of the Spirit” this morning, “Humility,” is often referred to as the “Mother of all Virtues,” and its opposite, “pride,” as the cause of all sin. Discussions of pride appear often in scripture. In Proverbs, we read, “Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall,” (16:18) and “Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoils with the proud,” (16:19) and “A man’s pride shall bring him low; but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit.” (29:23)

In today’s gospel, we read that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (14:11) This is our Lord’s teaching, and He practices what He preaches. He lowered Himself to being like a slave. He withstood mockery, being spat upon, and physical abuse. To emphasize His humility, he insisted on washing the feet of the disciples – doing all of this while purifying the world from the stain of sin.

When we think of humility and wonder what we must do, truly to be humble, we may think we should degrade ourselves and take on a remorseful air. We don’t have to do that! Christ is humble, and He does not do that! God, we are taught, has perfect humility and does not act that way. The truly humble can lay aside all vanity, serve the least of God’s creatures, and consider no good work as beneath one’s dignity and honor – without being sad, remorseful, and “down in the dumps.” As a matter of fact, true followers usually are rather happy people!

The test of being humble is to know that without the grace of God, we are but dust – sinful, and dead. Only through His grace are we truly alive and freed from our sinful ways – and really happy!

The next “Fruit of the Spirit” is “patience,” and are we not the beneficiaries of God’s patience? He has put up with a failing mankind since Creation. For us, patience means to suffer and endure. It means putting up with others and ourselves as we try to follow His wishes. Christ tells us that only those who are patient will bring forth fruit from the seeds of God’s Word that are sown in their hearts. People do not realize that, because of the tremendous freedom we enjoy, we are able to get ourselves into all sorts of trouble – thereby making the effort to cleanse one’s life from sin tiresome and long, requiring patience. Especially today, we seem to expect everything to happen at once, with little striving and work.  I think of this often – in this day of “instant communication,” we expect immediate answers when we send a text or email message. We don’t seem to remember when we used to have to wait until we could get to a phone to call someone or, worse yet, depend on the mail! We don’t seem to exhibit much patience!

Some feel they can find peace for their souls, by willpower and rationalization. These people will never truly find God and the peace that He brings to us. It takes time. It takes patience. This patience must be renewed frequently through personal prayer, corporate prayer, discipline, and especially through our Communion with God. If one wishes to be patient, he must be united with Christ and live by the Power of the Holy Spirit. There is no other way!

According to the Christian faith, the greatest virtue is “love,” as we read in First Corinthians (13:13). Love is the “fulfilling of the Law” of God. We read in Galatians (5:14) that “all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” God is Love. God loves us. In John’s gospel, we read why Christ came to save us sinners: “God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son” to save us. (John 3:16)

“Love,” then, is our third virtue mentioned in this morning’s epistle, and the most important, most complicated of all – complicated because there are several kinds of love. We have mentioned this before – but here is a brief “refresher.”

The first type of love is “agape,” which translates roughly to doing everything possible for the well-being of others – actions of perfect goodness for the sake of others. This is the love to which we refer, when we say, “God is Love.” God is Agape. And, this is the love with which spiritual persons must love, first of all.

The second form of love is “erotic love” – that which a husband and wife feel for one another; a love for the sake of union with another; to be with another; to be in communion with another. It is not, as some feel, just a sexual love. There should be an element of this in our relationship with God – that feeling of communion – wanting to be with Him.

The third “love” is “friendship,” or “phila,” and also should exist between Man and God. After all, Man has no greater friend than God, and God wants to be a friend of Man. That is why He sent His Son to save us: to eliminate all enmity between God and Man and to establish a “friendship.” Phila – as in “Philadelphia” – the “City of Brotherly Love.” Friendship!

So, all three forms of love – Love as Goodness, Love as Union, Love as Friendship – are all to be found in God and Man, between God and Man, and between human beings. There is no form of true love, which lies outside of our spiritual lives.

The final point in today’s epistle is that there is a powerful “unity” within the Church, which transcends all of our differences. “There is one Body and one Spirit.” No matter what our individual preferences, all who have been baptized by water and the Holy Spirit are members of the Church. When baptized, one does not become a member of just his local congregation or particular denomination, but a member of the Church – the Body of Christ!

Baptismal certificates make it clear that one is entering the Church in the broadest sense – the Body of Christ’s believers. Ordination certificates state that one is ordained into the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,” and not into a particular denomination.

So, this “unity” includes all baptized Christians, who, together recognize that “there is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all.”

We Anglicans have very definite ideas and preferences in our liturgy, church décor, attitude toward our clergy, and various beliefs and customs. But, we are only a small part of the Church, all joined together in this unity – this army of Christ’s followers. Some of the characteristics of all of those members of this “army” are the “Fruits of the Spirit,” three of which we have discussed this morning – “humility,” “patience,” and “love.”

The collect today follows closely, as we ask that God’s grace may always be with us and enable us continually to do His good works. This may be accomplished only through humility, patience, and love. May we always be blessed with those “Fruits of the Holy Spirit”!

                                                                   Amen

Hymns:

Processional – 300 – “Before the Lord Jehovah’s throne”

Gradual – 418 – “Blest are the pure in heart”

Offertory – 287 – “Give praise and glory unto God”

Communion – 208, 1st tune – “Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face”

Recessional – 554 – “Lead on O King eternal”

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October 1, 2017                      Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (transferred)

Collect: p. 251

Trinity 16 Collect : p. 212

O.T. Lesson: Job 38:1-7

(For) Epistle: Rev. 12:7-12

Gospel: St. Matthew 18:1-10

A sermon by The Rev. Fr. Raleigh H. Watson, DDS, Rector, St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Church, Winchester, Virginia

“St. Michael and All Angels”

          This morning, we celebrate the feast of our patron, St. Michael the Archangel. More specifically, we commemorate all of the Angels – the complete name of this feast day is “St. Michael and all Angels” – but primarily we remember this day as St. Michael’s Day, or Michaelmas. Celebrating the feast of the patron is important in the life of a parish, so we are moving it from last Friday to allow it to be held today – on Sunday – when more of the congregation may be in attendance.

Let’s discuss first this morning – angels in general: what angels are, who they are, and where they are.

We must understand that this visible world, here on earth, is not the only world created by God. There is an invisible, co-existing world, also. We cannot see it or locate it physically. It is spiritual! It has no place or size. Just because we do not see it does not mean it is not real. It has been described as “invisible creation,” or “invisible created reality,” and consists of the hosts of bodiless powers. These are often referred to and somewhat incorrectly “lumped together” as “angels.”

We may sometimes make comments about angels to others, and find they are astonished to learn that we believe in such things. And, when asked if they do not also believe in them, the reply might be that they have never seen one. (One of my friends once made that comment to me, years ago, as we talked of the subject.) Many people do not believe in things that are not material or visible. Well, we don’t see God, but we know He is here. We don’t see the invisible, but we certainly see the results of His works. And, must we actually see a physical representation of something, in order to believe in it? What a narrow outlook that seems to be – to us! And, by the way – how can anyone be so certain he has not seen an angel? How would he know?

But, skeptical people such as these think we are very strange for naming our church after something or someone they cannot see or in which they cannot believe. One of the apostles or martyrs might be appropriate perhaps – but angels?

We may further flabbergast these people, when we tell them that angels are really just one of nine levels of these supernatural beings in which we believe. (I further astounded my friend as I told him this!) We mention them in our final hymn this morning (599). The various levels are: angels, archangels, principalities, powers, virtues, dominions, thrones, and of course the cherubim and the seraphim; and all are often spoken of as “angels.” “Angel,” of course, means, “messenger,” and carrying messages has often been their function. Indeed, the angels and archangels are the most active as workers, warriors, and messengers of God to the world. Their function is to struggle against spiritual evil and to mediate between God and the world.

We must realize that these are spiritual beings, having no bodies or physical shape. Any descriptions are merely symbolic: descriptions such as “six-winged,” or “many-eyed,” or “in the shape of a man.” It would seem that they can assume the form of a person, as did Gabriel, Michael, or the two angels at Jesus’ tomb, or the one who led Peter out of prison. They do have the power to take various shapes, but have no form of their own.

Angels are individuals; they cannot be in more than one place at a time. They are indeed sent by God to perform specific duties. That is why Father Geoffrey Neal describes them as “secret agents.” We just sang of “Spirits of Grace, Messengers…subtle as flame” in the gradual hymn. (122) And, as we, they do not know the time of the Second Coming.

Scripture often associates angels with the stars. This seems to be a hint that their substance is similar to stars – a ball of fire and energy! Some think that the Christmas star was, in fact, an angel serving God in the assigned task of guiding worshippers to the place of Jesus’ birth.

It has been suggested that if we wish to improve our lives, we should be especially thoughtful and kind to strangers, for we never know when one might be an angel. (We may have seen many angels and not recognized them!) We will not know until eternity, but is that not an exciting possibility?

Now, as to our Michael: He is considered to be the greatest of the seven archangels, and one of only two mentioned in the canonical books of the Bible, Gabriel being the other. Two others, Raphael  and Uriel, are mentioned in the Apocryphal books. We sang of Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel in our opening hymn. (122)

In Daniel, we read of Michael as “The Prince, the Protector of God.”

In Jude, we find him contesting with the Devil over Moses’ body. Satan had charged that Moses, being a murderer, was not worthy of burial. Michael, though angered, did not condemn Satan, but merely rebuked him.

But probably the most familiar story we have of Michael is the Revelation reading used in place of an epistle today. We read of Michael and his good angels fighting with the Devil in heaven. The Devil is in the form of a serpent and accompanied by his evil angels. (Yes, there are such things as evil or “fallen” angels! Lucifer, or Satan, the fallen one, also was an archangel.) Michael is successful, and drives Satan and his followers out of Heaven.

Because of this story, Michael is usually portrayed with a sword or a spear, and often is shown standing triumphantly over the fallen serpent or dragon.

Michael is also referred to as a “Peacemaker,” as we sang in our opening hymn (123) this morning, and that seems to be confusing to some, since we usually think of him in the warrior role. I don’t find it confusing at all. If there were no such evil beings as Satan and his fallen angels, perhaps peace could exist without strong forces such as Michael. But Satan also is very real. Consequently, the only way to have peace is to be constantly prepared for conflict: in other words – to be a warrior.

This concept of Christians as warriors shows up in many of our hymns. “Go forward, Christian soldier,” is one (553) in which we are told not to dream of any rest “until Satan’s host is vanquished.” In “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” mention is made of Satan’s host fleeing at the sign of triumph! Peacemakers must be strong warriors.

Michael is a wonderful patron for our congregation. We should be very pleased that Father Hewett – now our Bishop – chose him when he founded our church. He is a symbol of strength, goodness, constancy, and victory – victory that brings peace! These are the characteristics that we need to emulate, as we continue to grow and serve God, here in Winchester.

And now, let us pray the prayer of St. Michael:

Holy Michael Archangel, defend us in the day of battle, be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust down to hell Satan and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.”

Amen

Hymns:

Processional – 123, 2nd tune – “Christ the fair glory of the holy angels”

Gradual – 122 – “Angels and ministers, spirits of grace”

Offertory – 120 – “Around the throne of God a band”

Communion – 197 – “Let all mortal flesh keep silence”

Recessional – 599 – “Ye watchers and ye holy ones”

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