Sunday, December 23, 2018

Advent IV Sermon: On Heaven

Today I preached for Advent IV -- on heaven, heavenly citizenship, and the bodily resurrection:
This heavenly citizenship — which is ours through membership in Christ’s Body, the Church — makes us a “peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9, KJV). Every rival loyalty must be submitted to the surpassing reality of our incorporation into Christ (Gal. 3:28-29; 1 Cor. 12:13). But this relativizing of other loyalties does not mean their diminishment — quite the opposite! 
We love Jesus not by loving others less but precisely through loving them rightly. Saints Paul and Peter make it abundantly and repeatedly clear that loving your spouse, your children, and your parents, so far from being in conflict with heavenly citizenship, are in the fact the very ways in which we love Jesus. Romans 13 and 1 Peter 3 affirm that part of being a good Christian is being a good earthly citizen. These other loyalties are relativized not by being diminished but by being brought into right relation with our ultimate identity as members of the Church. 
Problems arise not when our love for family or country becomes too great but when our love is disordered. And in this fallen world, these other entities — family, country — can and inevitably will at times demand that they be your primary loyalty, that all things be made subject to them rather than to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Read (or listen to) the whole thing.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Four Last Things

For Advent this year, the clergy at All Saints are following the medieval tradition of preaching on the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Hell, Heaven).

I. Death
I have already posted about Fr. Sean's beautiful sermon on death.

II. Judgment
Fr. Dan's sermon on Judgment is also compelling and worth your time. Some excerpts:
What is our end? Our end is simply wonderful and magnificent: to live in the presence of God forever and ever, world without end; to participate in the very life of God as his adopted children through the holy waters of Baptism; to become fully human; to learn and to grow in God's presence without ceasing forever and ever and ever and ever. 
For all divine judgment is rooted in this very first declaration of God: that his creation is very good. 
God’s judgment of Adam was really ultimately his divine means of grace and salvation for the human race.”
Listen to the whole thing!

III. Hell
And last week, Fr. Gene preached on "Lewis' conception of Hell as a mercy of God," ultimately concluding with the right combination of eschatological hope and epistemological humility:
There may come a time—and I believe Hell exists within the temporal creation—when all those in hell repent and accept the forgiveness freely offered by the Lord Jesus. However, the Church has not been vouchsafed with the revelation that this must come to pass. The possibility exists that the damned will cling to their rebellion forever, no matter how foolish or how horrible it seems. I do believe that it is acceptable to hope for and pray that all come to the beatific vision.
Read the whole thing.

IV. Heaven
I'll finish with a sermon on Heaven tomorrow.

As my rector wrote, “Now all the pressure is on you to top off the Advent series with an all encompassing, yet specifically attentively and responsibly executed sermon on the four last things while also gently pulling back the veil and exhibiting before our yearning eyes all that the Ancient of Days has prepared for those who love him!”

No pressure.

Advent Reflections on the Blessed Virgin Mary

Below is an excerpt from our family's Advent letter this year. Andrea and I wrote it together.

“…Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” - Luke 1:42

As parents we have found much to contemplate in the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus — in particular, her humble embrace of God’s calling and her diligent attentiveness to the work of the Holy Spirit. The angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary signaled the transformation of the world, but for Mary this also implied other, perhaps unwelcome implications — she surely knew she would endure humiliating rumors about Jesus’ paternity. And Mary’s last appearance in the Gospels is to stand at the foot of the cross and watch her son die (Jn. 19:26-27). Wouldn’t most of us take Gabriel’s proclamation as a death sentence? It meant the end of whatever expectations Mary might have had for her life. Yet she accepts her calling as God’s humble servant and embraces her cousin Elizabeth’s proclamation: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!” (Lk. 1:42). Mary sees her place in the divine plan: “For, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed” (Lk. 1:48b).

Because she knows her true blessedness, she has eyes to see the Spirit at work in her life. Twice St. Luke tells us that Mary “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (2:19, 51). She treasures her experiences not merely for what they are in themselves but also for what they foreshadow: she sees what God is doing and joyfully anticipates what he will do.

To love and obey God is rarely convenient. It can be easy to see only the inconvenience. It sometimes looks as though there’s no divine plan at all — just a godless world going off the rails. Yet we know and we trust that God is at work in our lives through the Holy Spirit. We know, too, that with the advent of Jesus, God has inaugurated his kingdom. We look forward to the final restoration of all things. This is what Advent is about: remembering what God has already begun in Jesus and living in the light of the world to come.

Blessings this Advent.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A Sermon on Death

For Advent this year, the clergy at All Saints are following the medieval tradition of preaching on the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Hell, Heaven). I'll finish with a sermon on Heaven on December 23rd.

Fr. Sean started us off with a beautiful reflection on death this past Sunday:
If we read these two [temple] visits as parables of our own lives, then we are faced with two different responses to the advent of our death. We can be like Simeon, who prepares his life through prayer so that when Jesus comes to him, he recognizes who Jesus is and may die peacefully. Or, we can be fooled by the promises of the world like the masses of the people who can name Jesus, but do not recognize his true mission. Then, our temple is filled with thieves and liars, and we are no longer in communion with God. Jesus Christ is coming, awake your souls and prepare. Prepare your life in the knowledge of your coming death.
The whole thing is worth your time.