Saint Paul's Anglican Church has an historic connection to the Armenian community within our city, going back to the early 20th century when many Armenians immigrated to the United States fleeing from genocide. Saint Paul's church welcomed and embraced the Armenian families, beginning a long standing tradition of worship at Saint Paul's by members of that community. In April Father Andrew Faust and Deacon Bryan Dench attended the memorial remembrance at the genocide monument in Portland to offer prayers and spiritual support.
Saint Paul’s – May 16, 2021 Bad Things/Good Things
As we observe the weeks surrounding Jesus’s Passion and Resurrection, we walk with his disciples through an amazing period of ups and downs, despair and reversals, and deep mysteries of our faith. Seven things stand out.
John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. 16 1“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
The Temptation of Jesus (Mathew 4:1-11, ESV)
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” [Dt 8:3]
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” [Ps 91, vv. 11 and 12]
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’” [Dt 6:16]
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
1. This Gospel gives us a lesson in how to handle difficulty or temptation – Go to the Bible.
a. Jesus gives us the example.
b. This account tells us that Satan is ready to needle us when we’re under pressure.
c. God knows that will happen and he has given us the refuge of his word.
d. To benefit from the bible, we must read it, absorb “every word” not just the words we like, and interpret it honestly so it is consistent.
2. The Devil is persistent. He tries three times here to get Jesus to yield. And he returned later as Jesus neared his passion and crucifixion.
3. The Devil is sly. He hits points of weakness (hunger, fatigue, anxiety).
4. The Devil is no joke, no funny character with horns and pitchfork.
5. The Devil is a serious enemy.
6. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:5-8.
7. The Devil knows the scriptures and can use them to manipulate. In this passage he cites Psalm 91, vv. 11 and 12 to Jesus. But he’s dishonest about it.
8. It was his first point of attack, to distort God’s word and suggest it cannot be trusted: “Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” Gen 3:1.
9. “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” Jn 8:44.
10. C. S. Lewis, introduction to The Screwtape Letters:
Now, if by “the Devil” you mean a power opposite to God and, like God, self-existent from all eternity, the answer is certainly No. There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. No being could attain a “perfect badness” opposite to the perfect goodness of God; for when you have taken away every kind of good thing (intelligence, will, memory, energy, and existence itself) there would be none of him left. The proper question is whether I believe in devils. I do. That is to say, I believe in angels, and I believe that some of these, by the abuse of their free will, have become enemies to God and, as a corollary, to us. These we may call devils. They do not differ in nature from good angels, but their nature is depraved.
Devil is the opposite of angel only as Bad Man is the opposite of Good Man. Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God [or Jesus], but of Michael.
11. But here is the good news, Jesus has defeated Satan.
12. “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Jn 16:33
13. “We know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.” Jas 5:18
14. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Jas 4:17
15. So, here’s the point,
a. God’s word is our refuge. God gives it to us to build us up. It’s our survival manual. Pilot Scott Francis O'Grady in 1990’s.
b. We do need to take the Devil seriously. He has some limited authority over this world, and we see him in action. His mischief can hurt us.
c. Ultimately, though, we don’t need to be afraid of him, because we have the protection of Jesus, who has overcome. God restrains him and does not allow him to do us any permanent harm.
d. The Lord’s prayer ends, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil (ponērou) perhaps best understood as “the evil one.”
We must discipline our lives, but we must do so all the year round, and not merely at stated periods. I must discipline myself at all times.
Quoted in Donald S Whitney (2020). (p. 287). Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Revised and Updated Edition.
An interesting topic that came up in the context of the parables of the sower and of the wheat and weeds is that issue of the unpardonable sin, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31-32). Why do some reject the gospel and, apparently, never turn to Christ? We talked about that and perhaps the best succinct statement from one of the study notes said this speaks to flagrant, willful, and persistent rejection of God and his commands. When Jesus was speaking he was talking about those who heard him and turned away. In our present context, “This sin is committed today only by unbelievers who deliberately and unchangeably reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit in calling them to Salvation” (ESV Study Bible note). Resistance to God’s call or periods of sinful thinking or hostility to God can be forgiven. It is only the unrepentant obstinance of an unbelieving person that, as C. S. Lewis put, can lead God to say to the sinner, “your will be done,” leaving him or her in his or her state of rejection.
We also talked about the question why is it not “given” to all to understand the parables and the things of God. This may be God’s sovereign choice, “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’” Rom. 9:15 (RSV).
For the Homily on the Wedding at Cana and the first miraculous "sign" of Jesus, preventing the humiliation of a newly married groom by transforming ordinary water into finest wine, see the attached document.
This is a short video about the Epiphany:
The Gospel St. John 1: 1
IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will or man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
Tonight, let’s reflect on three things. (1) God came to be with us through the man Jesus. (2) Jesus is still with us. (3) Jesus will come again.
God came to be with us
At Christmas we are remembering and celebrating an astounding, amazing fact: God became a man. Why?
From the foundation of the world God had a plan and a purpose. In choosing to create the world, and to put mankind on the earth, God also chose to create beings in his image who were free to act according to his will or to disobey. What happened? You know the story, they disobeyed.
That was no surprise to God. But even then God foretold the remedy, “I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen 3:15, NRSV).
The rest of human history is the story of God’s patient cultivation of his chosen people until, “in the fullness of the times,” Christ came to earth, born of a woman, to carry out the reconciliation of God and mankind predicted from the beginning.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children” (Gal 4:4-5).
As the gospel for tonight reminds us about the birth of Jesus,
“22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
“GOD WITH US.” Think about that. God came to be with us, emptying himself of his divine stature and privilege, to become the God man!
Dieterich Bonhoeffer put it this way, “It is only because he became like us that we can become like him.”
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
How we can we even get our heads around that?
Have you ever been to an aquarium? A really big aquarium where you can watch the fish swimming around? Susan and I got to see the Atlanta Aquarium a few years ago. You stand by the glass and are at the same level as the bottom of this huge tank in which multiple fish of all species swim by and overhead. Incredible. It got me thinking about the incarnation of Jesus. You know, suppose you were the god of the fish and saw that you needed to intervene for them, join with them, to bring about their redemption. If you put on scuba gear and dove in for a swim, how would that work? Would you be just like them? No, you’d have to become a fish, have gills and fins, and swim with them and like them. It’s a poor analogy probably, but maybe it works to give us a small image of what God’s action was for us.
But God chose to become just like us to show us what a life pleasing in his sight would be, to obey his laws perfectly, and to make the perfect sufficient, once for all, sacrifice of atonement that reconciled humanity to God.
There was no other way. No mere human being or beings could accomplish that. God, as the Bible tells us, became both the just and the justifier of men.
25 Him God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 to declare, I say, at this time, His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. (KJV21)
Jesus is still with us
So, for a time he was here with us on earth in the person of Jesus. But here’s the great part for you and me today: he is still here. He is here, right here, right now.
20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matt 18:20, KJV21)
Christ has never left us, though he has departed in his earthly body. He is with us and among us. He lives in us.
And he has sent to us the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, the third way in which God shows himself to us and engages with us, to guide us into all truth (Jn 16:13) and to give us the strength we need to love and serve God.
Matt 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
Jesus will come again
So, Jesus came to be with us on earth. Jesus is still with us. And best of all, one day, Jesus will come again. He will come back for us. Everyone will see him. Everyone will acknowledge him. Those of us who follow him will be with him. He promised it.
John 14:3 And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
So tonight, this is what we celebrate with joy in our hearts.
The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
The Word is still with us.
And in the end, we win, because the Word (Jesus) will return for us.
Micheal Reeves is one of the foremost teachers and preachers online. This series is pithy and rich.
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