Resources for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity

These are resources for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity (the Ninh Sunday after Pentecost) on Sunday, August 2, 2020. The resources are gathered from a variety of sources and, while assembled mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, others may find them useful.

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“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” Genesis 32:24

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You can join us via Zoom by clicking the link below, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85044839927?pwd=TkQ1cHEzNUNjSjVCNTNJVUJwSkZaQT09. Things went fairly well last Sunday with only some minor technical problems!

If you are unable to join us in person, or cannot join us via Zoom, then you can simply do it all yourself – read the lessons and pray the prayers below, as well as listen to the recorded sermon, and intersperse it all by clicking on the links to the hymns.

If you are in Crete you can join us in person. We meet this coming Sunday, August 2 2020 at 11:00 am EEST at the Tabernacle of the Church of St Thomas, Kefalas. There are some protocols around the pandemic, and they were posted in last week’s blog.

Read

The readings appointed for this Sunday by the Revised Common Lectionary and the Church of England’s Common Worship Lectionary are:  Genesis 32:22-31, Psalm 17:1-7, 16, Romans 9:1-5, and Matthew 14:13-21. As in past weeks, we will omit the reading from Romans and the sermon will focus on the Hebrew Bible reading.

Reflect

I will post my sermon after it has been preached.

In the meantime, here is the text of a sermon from Fr Leonard Doolan, Senior Chaplain of St Paul’s, Athens. Trinity 8 2020 sermon

Pray

Collect
Almighty Lord and everlasting God,
we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern
both our hearts and bodies in the ways of your laws
and the works of your commandments;
that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever,
we may be preserved in body and soul;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

Lord God,
your Son left the riches of heaven and became poor for our sake:
when we prosper save us from pride,
when we are needy save us from despair,
that we may trust in you alone;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Intercession (Litany 33 from Common Worship | Daily Prayer)
Teach us, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
and lead us in the path of your commandments.

Keep our nation under your care;
and guide us in justice and truth.

O Lord, deal graciously with your servants;
teach us discernment and knowledge.

Let not the needy be forgotten;
nor the hope of the poor be taken away.

Guide the meek in judgement;
and teach your ways to the gentle.

Lord, remember your people;
whom you have purchased and redeemed of old.

I bid your prayers for the Church.

I bid your prayers for those in leadership:

    • For Katerini Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece, and
    • for Elizabeth, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her other realms, and also Governor of the Church of England;
      • and Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of her British government;
    • for the leaders of all nations, and for all in authority.
  • I bid your prayers for this village of Kefalas and all the villages and homes in the Demos of Apokoronas here on the island of Crete;
    and for the cities, towns, and villages from which we come.

I bid your prayers for the safety, health and salvation of:

  • those who travel by land, air, or water,
    and for all medical staff testing and tracing tourists;
  • the sick and the suffering,
    remembering the approximately 5.8 million active cases of the novel coronavirus, and mourning with the families of the 660,000 who have died in the pandemic;
  • prisoners and captives,
    especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China; and
  • refugees and migrants,
    especially those on Lesvos and in other camps in Greece.

Sing

 

 

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Resources for The Seventh Sunday after Trinity

These are resources for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity (the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost) on Sunday, July 26, 2020. The resources are gathered from a variety of sources and, while assembled mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, others may find them useful.

laban_jakob_grt

Laban Greets Jacob (1655) by Rembrandt van Rijn 1606 – 1669, from Museum Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.

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You can join us via Zoom by clicking the link below, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85044839927?pwd=TkQ1cHEzNUNjSjVCNTNJVUJwSkZaQT09. Things went well last Sunday with no technical problems!

If you are unable to join us in person, or cannot join us via Zoom, then you can simply do it all yourself – read the lessons and pray the prayers below, as well as listen to the recorded sermon, and intersperse it all by clicking on the links to the hymns.

If you are in Crete you can join us in person. We meet this coming Sunday, July 19, 2020 at 11:00 am EEST at the Tabernacle of the Church of St Thomas, Kefalas.Here are some protocols, for your information:

We are now seeing the return of tourists, residents, and part-timers.  We would hate to see anyone become infected after so many sacrifices at controlling the pandemic. Here are some protocols we will follow at St Thomas’s.

  • If a visitor or a part-timer comes, they will be asked if they have been in quarantine since arriving in Greece, or if they have been tested for Covid-19 since arriving. If they have not been in quarantine for two weeks, or they have not been tested (and presumably found uninfected), we respectfully ask them to wear a mask and to stand outside the Tabernacle, and stay a minimum of 1.5 metres from anybody else. They should, of course, also wash their hands in the lavatory or use hand sanitizer.
  • We request that everyone either wash their hands in the lavatory or use hand sanitizer when entering into the Tabernacle or Chapel.
  • I will continue to wear a mask.
  • When singing hymns, we will do so quietly, and not in the direction of anyone else.
  • At coffee time we should approach the serving table one at a time (or a family at a time), and not get bunched up.
  • Communion for the congregation will continue in one species only, the bread. I will take communion to the people.
  • The wearing of masks is encouraged but not obligatory.
  • The Tabernacle may only have eighteen persons in it, and at least 1.5 metre from each other (families, of course, may sit together).
  • Persons seated outside the Tabernacle should stay away from any visitors or recently returned residents or part-timers.
  • If anyone is ill they should stay home.

Read

The Common Worship/Revised Common Lectionary has Genesis 29:15-28, Psalm 105:1-11, 45b or Psalm 128, Romans 8:26-39and Matthew 13:31-33,44-52 as the appointed readings; we will be using the readings from Genesis and Matthew, and Psalm 128 at St Thomas’s.

Reflect

Our Curate and Deacon, the Rev. Julia Bradshaw, will be preaching on this Sunday. Later this week I will be posting a brief meditation on the term “kingdom” as used in the parables.

Pray

Collect
Lord of all power and might,
the author and giver of all good things:
graft in our hearts the love of your name,
increase in us true religion,
nourish us with all goodness,
and of your great mercy keep us in the same;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

Generous God,
you give us gifts and make them grow:
though our faith is small as mustard seed,
make it grow to your glory
and the flourishing of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Intercession (From Litany 32)
Show us your mercy, O Lord;
and grant us your salvation.

O Lord, save the President;
And teach her counsellors wisdom.

Let your priests be clothed with righteousness;
let your faithful people sing with joy.

Let your ways be known upon earth;
your saving health among all nations.

Give your people the blessing of peace;
and may all the earth be filled with your glory.

Create in us clean hearts, O God,
and renew a right spirit within us.

I bid your prayers for the Church.

 

I bid your prayers for those in leadership:

  • I bid your prayers for this village of Kefalas and all the villages and homes in the Demos of Apokoronas here on the island of Crete;
    and for the cities, towns, and villages from which we come.

I bid your prayers for the safety, health and salvation of:

  • those who travel by land, air, or water,
    and for all medical staff testing and tracing tourists;
  • the sick and the suffering,
    remembering the approximately 5.3 million active cases of the novel coronavirus;
  • prisoners and captives,
    especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China; and
  • refugees and migrants,
    especially those on Lesvos and in other camps in Greece.

 

Sing

 

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We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder

A sermon preached on
The Sixth Sunday After Trinity (The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost)
at The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete,
July 12, 2020 11:00 am.

 The readings were e Genesis 28:10-19a, Psalm 139: 1-11, 23-24, and Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

Marc-Chagall-Russia-1887-France-1985-The-Dream-of-Jacob-1960-1966-Oil-on-canvas

And [Jacob] dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it . . . he said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”  Genesis 28:12, 17  Marc Chagall (Russia, 1887-France, 1985). The Dream of Jacob, 1960-1966. Oil on canvas, 195 x 278 cm. National Museum of the Marc Chagall Biblical Message, Nice-France. ©ADAGP, Paris, 2012

We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,
we are climbing Jacob’s ladder,
we are climbing Jacob’s ladder, soldier of the cross.

The Places We Meet Our Friends and Significant Others

Where do you meet your people? How do you make your friends? How did you meet your spouse? If not the same person, where did you meet your beloved?

My father-in-law is a consumer economist who spent much of his career looking at the economic dimensions of the family. He was interested in exactly this question about how couples meet – he called them marriage markets. I suppose they are a field within a larger set of friend markets.

  • Many of us made our best friends in school. It was common in the period after 1945 up until the ‘sixties for couples to get married right out of high school.
  • When I started officiating at weddings in the late ’80s I would ask couples how they met. As often as not, the answer was in the local pub, or a wine bar, or a club.
  • Some people make their best friends in university or college, and many couples meet in that context.  My parents met that way, and Frances and I met there.
  • My in-laws met on a blind date – obviously it worked!
  • Churches used to be a major marriage market, but with the decline in attendance this is not so much the case anymore.
  • I know a couple who met because of a lost wallet. A guy from Vancouver left his wallet in Bellingham, in the state of Washington. Some college kids found it, and contacted the guy. He returned with a bunch of his buddies, and the Americans and the Canadians hung out together for a weekend. A young man and a young woman liked each other, and eventually got married and had two children.
  • Some of us make our friends at work. This is increasingly not a great marriage market, as the line between starting a romance and sexual misconduct is not always as obvious as it should be.
  • Of course, nowadays, the internet is the way young people meet. They might begin chatting on Facebook, or meet through an online dating service, or they may have just swiped right on Tinder. I have reconnected with many friends through Facebook, and I have even made a few new ones.

Now, where do we meet God? How do we meet the Creator? Where is our Beth-el?

Every round goes higher, higher,
Every round goes higher, higher,
Every round goes higher, higher, soldier of the cross.

 Beth-El: The House of God 

Jacob meets God in a dream while using a rock as a pillow (I suppose if I used a stone as a pillow I might have a vision of God, too!). He names the place Beth-El, which is simply the Hebrew for “House of God.” Today it is thought to be a village north of Jerusalem about 35 minutes, in what is now the Palestine Authority of the West Bank.

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Bethel. From the book Holy Land photographed by Daniel B. Shepp. 1894. The ruins probably date from the late Roman (Byzantine) era.

Where do we meet God?

  • As youth, perhaps in in Church, Sunday School, church camp, or after-school program. Typically we are inspired by individual pastors or earnest camp leaders.
  • Sometimes it comes about when we meet people who seem to have that personal relationship with God, and are living their lives abundantly because of it.
  • Sometimes it happens because of marriage – and I have seen cases where the new relationship with God lasts longer than the marriage.
  • For me, it was very much as an adult in a prayer groups and in a home Bible study.
  • It can happen through friends. C. S. Lewis became a Christianlargely because of was J. R. R. Tolkien’s witness to him; Tolkien was a bit put out that Lewis became an Anglican, and did not enter the Roman Catholic church. .
  • Some of us meet God in the church. I heard one man say that he was attending some service for the sake of a friend, and during the opening hymn he saw the top of the processional cross above a sea of heads, and fell to his knees knowing he needed God in his life.
  • Some have noted that it was in reading scripture for the first time – a Letter of Paul or the Gospel of Mark – that they met God. The actor David Suchet mentions this.
  • Sometimes we meet God in prayer when we are under stress – perhaps in a foxhole, or a hospital chapel.
  • Some perceive God in creation – as the hymn goes, “This is my father’s world / he shines in all that’s fair; / in the rustling grass I hear him pass, / he speaks to me everywhere.”
  • Some of us meet God in communion. Sara Miles tells the story of getting up one Sunday morning while the rest of her family was sleeping, and deciding to go for a walk in her neighbourhood of San Francisco. She was a a journalist and was not brought up in the church, so really knew nothing about it. She was passing the Episcopal (Anglican) Church of St Gregory, and walked into their service of the Eucharist. She was given communion, and when she received it she thought, “This is what I have been looking for all my life.”

Sinner do you love my Jesus,
sinner do you love my Jesus,
sinner do you love my Jesus, soldier of the cross

Jesus is our Beth-El, Our Ladder

As Christians, Jesus is our Bethel. We meet God in the person of Jesus Christ. The old African-American spiritual “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder” knows this. It was first written down about two hundred years ago. It was sung as a call and response in churches which did not afford books and in which most of its members were not allowed to learn to read. Nevertheless, the disparate peoples who were kidnapped from Africa to be slacves in North America, and their descendants, received the good news of Jesus Christ as liberation from slavery and sin. Those who first sang it  understood climbing Jacob’s ladder as growth in faith and knowledge of Jesus. They were in bondage, forced by violence to work in camps called plantations. It was unimaginable that they could be soldiers – only free men could be soldiers – but they subversively saw themselves as soldiers in a greater battle, against sin, against the oppression of slavery. After 1865 the song became one against the tyranny of racism.  Soldiers of the cross, indeed.

Soldier of the Cross

One of them died yesterday, John Lewis. Now, those of you who are English associate the name John Lewis with a department store, but in the United States there was another John Lewis, an African American who trained to be a Baptist pastor, but became involved in the civil rights movement instead. As a young man he helped organise the March on Washington in 1963, and was one of the speakers.  In 1965, in an attempt to march from Selma Alabama to Montgomery, the state capital, he suffered beatings by police at the Edmund Pettus Bridge just outside the town.

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“At a time when many of the nation’s most prominent clergy were silent, Archbishop Iakovos courageously supported our Freedom Movement and marched alongside my husband, and he continued to support the nonviolent movement against poverty, racism and violence throughout his life.” Coretta Scott King 2005

Martin Luther King came to Selma to lead an attempt to continue the march, and here is a Greek connection – he was joined by Archbishop Iakovos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas – and he was the only national church leaders who dared to join King. But of course, as a Greek from an island that became part of Turkey, he knew all about violence and oppression. John Lewis recovered from his beating, and eventually became a member of the US House of Representatives. Like his Lord and master, he was a man committed to the non-violent opposition to abusive power – he was what you might call, a soldier of the cross.

So this is another place we might encounter God – when we take up our crosses and follow Jesus, speaking truth to power, challenging the abuses of the status quo.

Meeting God in Christ in Service

If you love him, why not serve him?
If you love him, why not serve him?
If you love him, why not serve him, soldier of the cross?

As Christians our Beth-El is in service to God in Jesus Christ. We will each do it differently, of course – not many of us will be a John Lewis –  but it is there that we will meet the divine, there that we will be sanctified. It is there that we might say, ““How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

 

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Resources for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity

These are resources for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity (the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost) on Sunday, July 19, 2020. The resources are gathered from a variety of sources and, while assembled mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, others may find them useful.

Marc-Chagall-Russia-1887-France-1985-The-Dream-of-Jacob-1960-1966-Oil-on-canvas

Marc Chagall (Russia, 1887-France, 1985). The Dream of Jacob, 1960-1966. Oil on canvas, 195 x 278 cm. National Museum of the Marc Chagall Biblical Message, Nice-France. ©ADAGP, Paris, 2012

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We had more problems last week with the Zoom live stream. The picture was freezing, the sound was distorted, some of the worship leaders could not be heard, and then, after an hour, Zoom stopped functioning. *sigh* As I wrote to a couple of people:

Currently we are working with one phone as an internet hotspot, another as a camera, and a computer as the control. This may not be the most efficient system in terms of data, nor does it necessarily give it the best sound and video. I am hoping that I will be able to have a conversation with consultant very soon about how we can improve the live stream.

One idea is to have a more stable internet connection, and whether Zoom is the best platform. Another is that we use microphones for readers and whoever is leading the service, all connected into some sort of a mixer that maintains sound quality, without being overwhelmed by the ambient sound of the cicadas.

For those who are willing to bear with us, you can join us via Zoom by clicking the link below, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85044839927?pwd=TkQ1cHEzNUNjSjVCNTNJVUJwSkZaQT09

If you are in Crete you can join us in person. We meet this coming Sunday, July 19, 2020 at 11:00 am EEST at the Tabernacle of the Church of St Thomas, Kefalas. People recently arrived in Greece should wear a mask and take care to be social distanced.

If you are unable to join us in person, or cannot join us via Zoom, then you can simply do it all yourself – read the lessons and pray the prayers below, as well as listen to the recorded sermon, and intersperse it all by clicking on the links to the hymns.

Read

The readings appointed for this coming Sunday according to the Church of England’s Common Worship lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary are Genesis 28:10-19a, Psalm 139: 1-11, 23-24, Romans 8:12-25, and Matthew 13:24-30,36-43. As has been our practice, at St Thomas. Kefalas we will omit the reading from Romans and focus on the passage from Genesis.

Reflect

I will be posting my sermon again soon after I preach it. If I get it in time, I will post the pre-recorded sermon from Fr Leonard Doolan’s from St Paul’s, Athens.

Pray

Collect
Merciful God,
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding:
pour into our hearts such love toward you
that we, loving you in all things and above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

Creator God,
you made us all in your image:
may we discern you in all that we see,
and serve you in all that we do;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Form of Intercession (From Litany 31, Common Worship Daily Prayer)
Save your people, Lord, and bless your inheritance.
Govern and uphold them now and always.

Day by day, we bless you.
We praise your name for ever.

Keep us today, Lord, from all sin.
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.

We long for your salvation, O Lord:
grant us understanding, that we may live.

Lord, show us your love and mercy,
for we put our trust in you.

In you, Lord, is our hope:
let us not be confounded at the last.

I bid your further prayers and thanksgiving.

  • I bid your prayers for the Church.
  • I bid your prayers for those in leadership:
    • For Katerini Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece, and
    • for Elizabeth, Governor of the Church of England,
      • and Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of her British government;
    • for the leaders of all the nations, and for all in authority.
  • I bid your prayers for this village of Kefalas and all the villages and homes in the Demos of Apokoronas here on the island of Crete;
    and for the cities, towns, and villages from which we come.
  • I bid your prayers for those who travel by land, air, or water,
    and for all medical staff testing and tracing tourists;
    for the sick and the suffering,
    remembering the approximately 5 million active cases of the novel coronavirus;
    for prisoners and captives,
    especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China;
    for refugees and migrants,
    especially those on Lesvos and in other camps in Greece;
    for their safety, health and salvation.

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.

Sing

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Confessions of a Conflict Junkie

A sermon preached
on The Fifth Sunday after Trinity
(the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost)

at The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
on July 12, 2020 11:00 am.

The readings were : Genesis 25:19-34, Psalm 119:105-112, and Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

jacobesau

And the Lord said to [Rebekah],
“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
    the elder shall serve the younger.”
When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.[That is, he takes by the heel ] Genesis 25.23-26.

Sibling Rivalry

Did you fight with your siblings, your brother or your sister? “Mom, make him stop, he’s looking at me!” Have any of you served in the military, or come from military families? That’s a different type of fighting. Or perhaps you worked in places where conflict contributed towards it being a toxic environment.

Well, is it not great that in the church we have no conflict?
What, you mean to say there IS conflict in the church?

The Reality of Conflict

Conflict in the church, as in families, and as is the case among nations, is inevitable. We may have a naïve belief that it should not be so in the church, but as long as we have strongly held beliefs AND we are living, breathing human beings, we will be in conflict with one another.

I think Jesus knew this. From the moment the Spirit came upon him at his baptism he was in conflict. Satan attacked him in the desert, and then through the demon-possessed, and finally at his crucifixion. Jesus was in conflict with the people in his home town, and was criticised by the scribes and Pharisees. He was opposed by the religious leaders in Jerusalem, as well as Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate. He overturned the tables of the money changers in the Temple.  In the end he was tortured and executed by the imperial authorities of Rome. Jesus knew the reality of conflict.

James & johnEven among his disciples there was conflict. James and John jockeyed for position in the kingdom of heaven. Peter contradicted Jesus about the necessity of his death, and was told. “Get behind me Satan!” Judas betrayed him.

There was conflict in the early church. Paul describes the argument he had with Peter in his Letter to the Galatians. There were divisions in the churches in Corinth and Rome. So conflict is a reality in this broken, fragile, fallen world. If one is speaking truth to power, if one lives God’s way in a way that worships idols, there will be conflict. We do not leave our sinful selves behind when we enter the doors of the church.

The critical issue is not that there is conflict, as challenging as that might be, but how we approach it, because I believe that there is a Christian way of dealing with it. It is a way that is demonstrated in Christ Jesus, in his life and teaching, in his suffering and death, and in his resurrected life.

Escalation

Let’s think about these two. Jacob is literally at Esau from birth, grabbing at him. Both have their virtues. Esau is a hunter, and a good one. Jacob is clever – but perhaps a little too clever. Indeed, as we read through Genesis, Jacob is the trickster of Israelite tradition, the Loki of the Hebrews, the Raven of the sons of Abraham. They start as brothers, but the ancient Israelites understood Jacob and Esau as being the ancestors of the nations of Israel and Edom, two kingdoms that fought one another. Conflict at one level can escalate to another.

Me as EO

Me, circa 2004

When I became the Executive Officer of the Diocese of British Columbia I became a bit of a crisis and conflict junkie. In parish ministry I was one of those clergy who tried to avoid conflict, which just meant that I handled it poorly. So when I leaped into this senior position I found clergy and lay leaders coming to me for help to manage arguments and disputes in parishes. I really did not have a clue. So, I took a course in conflict management at the local university.

 

Glasl's_Model_of_Conflict_Escalation.svg

Friedrich Glasl’s Model of Conflict Escalation

I discovered that there were at least ten levels of escalation of conflict. I was shown how it started small – with parents and children, and then got bigger at the level of  neighbourhoods and small organizations, and then to municipalities and labour-management disputes in companies, getting even bigger with states or province, to warring nations. For case studies we looked at the Waco crisis with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, and the move of South Africa from apartheid to a new constitution. I wrote a long essay on the conflict around the ordination of women in the Anglican Church of Canada, and how that differed from how that issue was managed in the Episcopal Church of the USA and the Church of England. We looked at the 1991 classic on negotiation called “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.” I learned that, while most of the time one tries to de-escalate a situation, on occasion one would actually escalate the conflict to force an issue. I got really good at conflict, and most of the time I “won”.

However, “winning” was sometimes actually a failure. One can resolve a conflict by overpowering the other side, but you may lose the other side as a brother or sister in Christ. Sometimes that cannot be helped, especially in cases of sexual misconduct where a party absolves themselves of all responsibility despite the preponderance of evidence. But most of the time it can be.

goodfriday.jpg

Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

The Unbelievable Comes to Pass

In our time we have seen conflicts resolved and unresolved. We have had an uncomfortable peace in Northern Ireland since 1998. I thought the Troubles would never end, and some folks did their best to undo the Good Friday Agreement, but here we are, twenty-two years later. Growing up, did we ever think that the Iron Curtain would fall as peacefully as it did? And now most of the former Warsaw Pact nations are in NATO and the European Union. Some nations are not where we might like them to be. The war in Yugoslavia was contained, and even Greece and North Macedonia learned to live with each other. However, conflict continues – in the Middle East, between Israeli and Palestinian, between Saudis and Yemenis, in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites, in Syria between Assad and his people, in Africa, in Myanmar, in Afghanistan, and so forth.

The point is, conflict is always present. If we allow it to, it will become destructive. But it does not have to be. We can find more peaceful ways to live. We can move from entrenched positions to overlapping interests. We can engage in discourse, and if all else fails, ask a disinterested third party to adjudicate it. As Churchill said, ‘Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war.’ This was misquoted by Harold Macmillan in 1954 as: “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war,” but the sentiment is the same.

LoveYourEnemies-770x439_c

Christ’s Approach to Conflict

As Christians we are called not to be in conflict, but to be able to manage it with love and compassion. In the resolution of our differences we need to affirm the image of God in others and not be led into demonizing the other. As bizarre as it may seem, like Jesus we have a responsibility to our opponent and our oppressor, to love and to pray for our enemies.

It seems to me that knowing how to manage conflict in God’s way his is a key to evangelism. We can spread the seed, but it needs good soil in which to grow. By the way in which we deal with the difficult situations of life may people see our good works and give glory to God. May we be that rich soil into which the seed falls, so that it may grow abundantly.

The story of Esau and Jacob has a happy ending. Jacob, ever the trickster, returns to the Promised Land after many adventures in Syria and Iraq. He is still afraid of his brother, and sends him gifts. Then, as he approaches, he sends his flocks and large family before him, with him last of all, just in case he needs to skedaddle away. But it is all for nought – in chapter 33 we read, “But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” Esau does not want or need the gifts, but takes them at Jacob’s insistence, and the two brothers go in peace. The next time we hear of them together is when they bury Isaac, their father. May we find peace and reconciliation in following in the footsteps of Jesus.

 

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Resources for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity

These are resources for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity (the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost) on Sunday, July 12, 2020. The resources are gathered from a variety of sources and, while assembled mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, others may find them useful.

jacobesau

And the Lord said to [Rebekah],
“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
    the elder shall serve the younger.”
24 When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.[That is He takes by the heel ] Genesis 25.23-26

Share

There are several ways you can join in worship this coming Sunday, July 12, 2020.

First, you can join us for worship in person.

  • We meet this coming Sunday, July 12, 2020 at 11:00 am EEST at the Tabernacle of the Church of St Thomas, Kefalas.
  • It will be a Holy Communion according to Common Worship.
  • People should come only if they are comfortable with being out and about as the pandemic restrictions are being lifted, and are in good health.
  • Those of you were were there last week and are coming again, please remember to return with your hymn book, psalter, and service booklet!

You can join us in the worship service via Zoom. Click on the link below, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85044839927?pwd=TkQ1cHEzNUNjSjVCNTNJVUJwSkZaQT09

Third, you can simply do it all yourself – read the lessons and pray the prayers below, as well as listen to the recorded sermon, and intersperse it all by clicking on the links to the hymns.

Read

The readings according to the Church of England Common Worship Lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary are: Genesis 25:19-34, Psalm 119:105-112, Romans 8:1-11 and Matthew 13:1-9,18-23. As in previous weeks, we will exercise the option of having only the first reading and the gospel, and omit the reading from Romans.

For the psalm portion we may use this version, based on a translation by Ronald Knox. Psalm 119 is an acrostic. It has 22 sections of eight verses each, which makes for 176 verses – the longest by far of the 150 psalms. Every verse announces somehow the psalmist’s devotion to the Torah, describing it as Law, Judgement, Precept, Word, Teaching, and so forth. Each section begins each of the eight verses with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet – aleph, beth, gimel, daleth, and so forth, down to the last letter, waw. Most English translations do not attempt to reproduce this, but the English Roman Catholic priest Ronald Knox (1888-1957) did so, publishing it in 1950. The text below is a slight revision.

105 No lamp like your Word to guide my feet,
a light on my path.
106 Never will I retract my oath
to keep your just Judgements.
107 Nothing, Lord, but affliction;
preserve my life according to your Word.
108 Noble utterances of your mouth give me, Lord,
teach me your Judgements.
109 Now my life is in your eternal hands,
I am ever mindful of your Teaching.
110 Nearly the snares of the wicked caught my feet,
yet would I not swerve from your Precepts.
111 Now your Decrees are my inheritance,
and ever my heart’s delight.
112 Now to perform your Statutes is my heart’s aim;
eternal will be my reward.

Reflect

I will be posting my sermon on this blog after I preach it this Sunday.

In Romans 9.1-18 Paul talks about Jacob and Esau as a kind of prefiguring of how God is granting salvation to Gentiles as well as Jews, and how some Jews have turned from their heritage and will not receive grace. Here is a Lenten meditation I did on this three years ago.

Assuming that Fr Leonard Doolan pre-records his sermon for this coming Sunday, I will post it here when I get it.

Pray

Collect
Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church
is governed and sanctified:
hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

(or)

Almighty God,
send down upon your Church
the riches of your Spirit,
and kindle in all who minister the gospel
your countless gifts of grace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Intercessions
In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ,
let us pray to the Father.

For the peace of the whole world,
for the welfare of the Holy Church of God,
and for the unity of all,
let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For Robert Innes & David Hamid, our bishops;
for Justin Welby our archbishop, and Stephen Cottrell the Archbishop of York;
for the churches and peoples of  Djibouti and Somalia (World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle);
for the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea and its archbishop, The Most Revd Allan Migi (Anglican Cycle of Prayer); and
(from the Prayer Diary of the Diocese in Europe) give thanks for our relationship with the Lutheran Churches of the Porvoo Agreement;
for the Porvoo Contact Group
and the Lutheran Church in Great Britain; and
for our partnership with USPG:
for the leaders of our sister Churches,and for all clergy and people,
let us pray to the Lord.  Lord, have mercy.

 

For Katerini Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece,
and Kyriakos Mitsotakis the Prime Minister of Greece;
for Elizabeth the Queen of the United Kingdom
and Governor of the Church of England,
and Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of her British government;
for the leaders of the nations, and for all in authority,
let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For this community of Apokoronas and this island of Crete;
for every city, town and village,
and for all the people who live within them,
let us pray to the Lord.    Lord, have mercy.

For good weather,
and for abundant harvests for all to share,
let us pray to the Lord.     Lord, have mercy.

For those who travel by land, air, or water,
and for all medical staff testing and tracing tourists;
for the sick and the suffering,
remembering the over 4.5 million active cases of the novel coronavirus;
for prisoners and captives,
especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China;
for refugees and migrants,
especially those on Lesvos and in other camps in Greece;
for their safety, health and salvation,
let us pray to the Lord.   Lord, have mercy.

For our deliverance from all affliction, strife and need,
and for the absolution of our sins and offences,
let us pray to the Lord.   Lord, have mercy.

Remembering Thomas our patron and the twelve disciples, Isaac and Rebekah, Esau and Jacob, Mary Magdalene the apostle to the apostles, and Mary the Mother of God,
with all who have gone before us in faith,
and in communion with all the saints,
we commit ourselves, one another,
and our whole life to Christ our God; to you, O Lord

Sing

 

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I Commend My Spirit

A sermon preached on
The Patronal Feast of St Thomas the Apostle
(transferred from July 3)

at The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
on July 5, 2020 11:00 am

 The readings were: Habakkuk 2.1-4, Psalm 31.1-6, Ephesians 2.19-22, and John 20.24-29.

Saint Thomas

“Saint Thomas” (1608 – 1614), oil on canvas, byEl Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos & workshop). This work is part of an apostolate from the Church of Almadrones, Guadalajara, which repeats the model of the Apostolates at Toledo Cathedral and the Museum-House of El Greco in that same city with very few variations.

 

I Commend My Spirit.

בְּיָֽדְךָ֘ אַפְקִ֪יד ר֫וּחִ֥י  (Biyadhka aphqidh ruechi)
Into your hands I commend my spirit.   Psalm 31:4(5).

These words were spoken by Jesus, we are told in the Gospel of Luke (23:46), as he was dying on the cross. Today we read it as part of our commemoration of Thomas and his faith in Jesus as his Lord and his God. Let us muse of this juxtaposition.

Let’s start with what is being committed. In the Hebrew the word is, interestingly, ר֫וּחִ  or “ruach”. This word can mean breath. It can also, mean wind, and finally, spirit. It is typically translated into Greek as πνεύμα, and we get words like pneumonia from it. Hebrew writing is usually pretty concrete, although in this psalm ruach functions as a metonym, where a name substitutes for a larger whole; the hands of God also function as a metonym for the divine. Thus, the psalmist is not entrusting just his breath (as such) to God, nor is he just commending his spirit to God when he dies. Rather he is committing his whole self – mind and body, whatever it is that makes us human – to God.

It is an appropriate verse for today. While Thomas is often celebrated for his scepticism and doubt, he can also be celebrated for his confession to Jesus – “my Lord and my God.” In Jesus he saw what it was to be divine in human form, and what it was to be fully human. What his confession was, is ours as well.

What does it mean to commit one’s life to God?

Types of Commitment

There are a bunch of ways to go at this.

In more liturgical forms of the faith, it involves other people committing you to God in your baptism, when you are an infant. You then spend the rest of your life reaffirming that commitment, or running away from it. So you can be a good Catholic or a bad Catholic, or a non-observant Orthodox or a pious Orthodox, but you never really stop being a Catholic or an Orthodox. You might be an agnostic or an atheist, but you remain, somehow, an agnostic Orthodox or an atheist Catholic.

When Christianity became more common and general in the fourth and fifth centuries, when these islands became fully Christian in the sixth and seventh centuries, new forms of commitment arose, namely the monastic movements for men and women. People would retreat to the desert or mountains, sometimes as hermits, but more often in communities.  They would take special vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience. In time the three orders of the clergy were also seen as a kind of commitment for serious Christians, and so were seen, not just servants of the people, but as their leaders and overseers. When one “went into religion”, one would be ordained or take vows as a monastic, or both. In time, in the Western Christian tradition, some religious orders moved from the contemplation of God to special service – education, preaching, nursing and medicine, and so forth.

Screenshot 2020-07-05 at 2.14.03 PMWith the Reformation a focus was made on the laity as needing to be educated by the clergy. The Bible, through the miracle of the printing press, became more common and accessible. Starting in the 16th century, in the daily services of protestant churches large chunks of scripture were read. Beginning in the 17th century, peasants and labourers were taught to read in Sunday schools – Sunday being the only day they had off from work – and the text was always the Bible. The origin of Sunday Schools were not so much in religious education for children, but in teaching the lower classes. It is not an accident that Evangelicalism and various types of Protestants arose in the era, supported by ordinary people.  Evangelical circles emphasized that ordinary Christians needed to accept Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Saviour. It is what Charles Wesley would call a warming of the heart, a realization that one was saved by one’s faith in Jesus, and that nothing could come between God’s love for us. In Baptist circles this would be evidenced by a testimony of what God has done for you, and then Baptism. In Charismatic or Pentecostal circles, it was evidenced by speaking in tongues, and other gifts of the Holy Spirit. The commitment of the believer was seen by extraordinary works and signs.

I have committed my life to God on at least three separate formal occasions – when I was baptized, when I was made a deacon, and when I was ordained a priest. But I have done so on many other occasions – such as when I was licensed to a parish. Perhaps more mundanely, I commit myself to God, with you, every Sunday when we gather to praise God in word and song, when we read the scriptures together, reflect on what God is saying to us, when we are led in prayer to God, when we gather around the table as Jesus commanded us, and when we are sent out into the world. Commitment is not a once in a life thing. It is not a three-time thing. It is weekly, if not daily.  It is like a marriage. If the commitment in a marriage is made only on the day of the wedding, it is not a marriage that is going to last very long. It is a commitment that needs a regular, perhaps daily renewal. It is a commitment that thrives on loving action.

rubens_apostel_thomas_grt

“St Thomas” (1610 – 1612) as an old man, by Peter Paul Rubens

 

Why Thomas?

We never really hear of Thomas again in the New Testament. Pious legend suggests that he went east, and preached the gospel in India. When the powers of Europe arrived in India in the 16th century they found Christians there already, claiming to have been founded by Mar Thoma many centuries before.

Screenshot 2020-07-05 at 2.22.02 PMI asked Tony Lane as to why he named the Chapel in honour of Thomas. He wrote me, and I quote with his permission:

Initially, I thought and prayed for some time concerning who we should adopt as our patron saint.  Names like: Peter, Paul, Christ, All Saints, along with others were considered, and then (other than it being God inspired) I suddenly found myself thinking about St Thomas. 

If honest, in the past, I seemed to have held him in rather low regard, looking on him as someone lacking in faith and doubting Christ, as many still do.  The more I deliberated the more I became convinced just how misjudged he is.  I do not see him as doubting and certainly no more than any of those other Apostles.  In fact I think he was the only one brave enough to express what the others were probably thinking.

Add to that once Jesus revealed himself he was the first one to acknowledge him as ‘My Lord and my God!’ 

As I thought further about Thomas the more admiration I had for him, as I saw him as someone who was brave enough to express his feelings, and yes at times have doubts, as we surely all have if we are honest with ourselves.   It often amazes me just how many people have asked me ‘Why St Thomas?’  A rather curt reply could be ‘Why not!’  But that is not helpful, so my real reason for adopting Thomas is that he seems to give me permission;  to have doubts;  to ask God why, when things are not working out;  and like him to take great comfort and reassurance that God allows me to make the same mistakes, again and again, and as with Thomas, I know that I am forgiven once more.

My hope and prayer is that this place and this community will be known for its commitment to God, and for service to our neighbour. That it will be a place welcoming of people like Thomas, with doubts and questions, but also a place where people, as Thomas did, will encounter Jesus, and perhaps confess of him as Lord and God. As it has was in the year 30, as it has been since the founding of this congregation, so may it be in the future. May we join with Jesus and the saints, including Thomas, and say, “Into your hands we commit our spirits”, our selves our souls and bodies. Amen.

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Resources for the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle

These are resources for the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle, normally observed on July 3 in the modern calendars of Western Christianity, but which we will observe as our patronal feast on Sunday, July 5, 2020. The resources are gathered from a variety of sources and, while assembled mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, others may find them useful.

St Thomas Icon copy

An icon of St Thomas as a young man.

Share

There are several ways you can join in worship this coming Sunday, July 5, 2020.

First, you can join us for worship in person.

  • We meet this coming Sunday, July 5, 2020 at 11:00 am EEST at the Tabernacle of the Church of St Thomas, Kefalas.
  • It will be a Holy Communion according to Common Worship.
  • People should come only if they are comfortable with being out and about as the pandemic restrictions are being lifted, and are in good health.
  • Those of you were were there last week and are coming again, please remember to return with your hymn book, psalter, and service booklet!

We will ensure that the mobile phone(s) functioning as the internet “hotspot” and camera do not overheat this week!  You can join us in the worship service via Zoom. Click on the link below, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85044839927?pwd=TkQ1cHEzNUNjSjVCNTNJVUJwSkZaQT09

Third, you can simply do it all yourself – read the lessons and pray the prayers below, as well as listen to the recorded sermon, and intersperse it all by clicking on the links to the hymns.

Saint Thomas

“Saint Thomas” (1608 – 1614), oil on canvas, by El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos & workshop).  Copyright ©Museo Nacional del Prado

Read

  • The readings for Holy Communion on the Feast of St Thomas, according to the Church of England’s Common Worship Lectionary, are Habakkuk 2.1-4, Psalm 31.1-6, Ephesians 2.19-22, and John 20.24-29.
  • These are identical to the Revised Common Lectionary readings used in The Episcopal Church in the USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, except that The Episcopal Church uses Psalm 126 and Hebrews 10:35-11:1 as the psalm and second reading, and the Anglican Church of Canada uses Hebrews 10:35-11:1 as an alternative to the Habbakuk passage.
  • The Anglican Church of Canada observes this feast on July 3, whereas The Episcopal Church still uses the older Book of Common Prayer day of December 21.

Reflect

After I have preached the sermon on Sunday I will add it as a new post.

In the meantime, here is an expanded version of an older sermon, from five years ago, preached on the Second Sunday of Easter at St Matthias, Victoria, highlighting the Gospel of Thomas and what it means and does not mean for us.

rubens_apostel_thomas_grt

“St Thomas” (1610 – 1612) as an old man, by Peter Paul Rubens

Pray

Collect
Almighty and eternal God,
who, for the firmer foundation of our faith,
allowed your holy apostle Thomas
to doubt the resurrection of your Son
till word and sight convinced him:
grant to us, who have not seen, that we also may believe
and so confess Christ as our Lord and our God;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Intercession
In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ,
let us pray to the Father.

Hear our prayers, O Lord our God.
Hear us, good Lord.

Govern and direct your holy Church; fill it with love and truth;
and grant it that unity which is your will.
Hear us, good Lord.

Give us boldness to preach the gospel in all the world,
and to make disciples of all the nations.
Hear us, good Lord.

Enlighten Robert and David, our bishops, and all your ministers with knowledge
and understanding, that by their teaching and their lives
they may proclaim your word.
Hear us, good Lord.

Give your people grace to hear and receive your word,
and to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit.
Hear us, good Lord.

Bring into the way of truth all who have erred and are deceived.
Hear us, good Lord.

Strengthen those who stand, comfort and help the faint-hearted;
raise up the fallen; and finally beat down Satan under our feet.
Hear us, good Lord.

Guide the leaders of the nations into the ways of peace and justice.
Hear us, good Lord.

Guard and strengthen your servant, Katerini Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece (Kατερίνη Σακελλαροπούλου, Πρόεδρος), that she may put her trust in you, and seek your honour and glory.
Hear us, good Lord.

Endue the Parliament of the Hellenes (Βουλή των Ελλήνων), and Kyriakos Mitsotakis the Prime Minister (Κυριάκος Μητσοτάκης, Πρωθυπουργός), and all the ministers of the Republic, with wisdom and understanding.
Hear us, good Lord.

Bless those who administer the law, that they may uphold
justice, honesty and truth.
Hear us, good Lord.

Give us the will to use the fruits of the earth to your glory,
and for the good of all creation.
Hear us, good Lord.

Bless and keep all your people.
Hear us, good Lord.

Help and comfort the lonely, the bereaved and the oppressed.
Lord, have mercy.

Keep in safety those who travel, and all who are in danger.
Lord, have mercy.

Heal the sick in body and mind, and provide for the homeless,
the hungry, and the destitute.
Lord, have mercy.

Show your pity on prisoners and refugees, and all who are in trouble.
Lord, have mercy.

Forgive our enemies, persecutors and slanderers, and turn their hearts.
Lord, have mercy.

Hear us as we remember those who have died in the peace of Christ, both those who have confessed the faith and those whose faith is known to you alone, and grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom.
Lord, have mercy.

For the Church:

  • For Justin Welby, our Archbishop of Canterbury & Primate of All England, and Stephen Cottrell the Archbishop of York and Primate of England;
  • for Robert Innes & David Hamid, our Bishops here in the Diocese in Europe;
  • for the churches and peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia (World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle);
  • for the united Church of Pakistan and its Moderator, The Most Revd Humphrey Peters, Bishop of Peshawar; and
  • (from the Prayer Diary of the Diocese in Europe) for the Bishop’s Office in Brussels,
    • for Meurig Williams in his role as Bishop’s Chaplain,
    • Gail Wilmet (Bishop’s Personal Assistant (“PA”)),
    • Damian Thwaites in his role as Bishop’s Attaché to the European Institutions,
    • Barbara Omoro (Appointments Secretary) and
    • Caroline Gaumy (Administrative Secretary)

For Government

Sing

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The Failure of Abraham and the Horror of God

A sermon preached on The Third Sunday after Trinity
at The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
June 28, 2020 11:00 am

The readings we used at St Thomas’s were :
Genesis 22:1-14, Psalm 13, and Matthew 10:40-42.

the-sacrifice-of-isaac-1966.jpg!Large

The Sacrifice of Isaac (1966), Marc Chagall

‘Take your son,
your only son
Isaac,
whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”              Genesis 22:2

Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”      Genesis 22:12

Is there any more horrific story than this one? God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son. What kind of a God does that?

IphigeniaTimanthus

The Sacrifice of Iphigenia, a 1st Century AD Roman copy of a 4th Century BC painting by Timanthes, discovered at Pompeii, and now in the Museum at Naples

Blood Thirsty Gods

Well, all kinds, apparently. Many societies have practiced human sacrifice at various times in their history. For example,

  • In the Bronze Age (2100 – 700 BCE) and across north-west Europe, and including Ireland and Great Britain, there is much evidence of human sacrifice, including the 1850 corpses found preserved in peat bogs. The Romans alleged the ancient Celts practiced it.
  • Agamemnon in the Greek epics sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to appease Artemis. Euripedes, in the play Hecuba, tells how the Trojan princess Polyxena is sacrificed by the triumphant Greeks to appease the wind, so that they could sail home. Presumably these legends were grounded in ancient practices.
  • Romans occasionally were involved in human sacrifice, the last one being in 113 BCE before a war with the Celts. Prior to that, four humans were sacrificed after the defeat at Cannae (216 BCE)
  • In the 5th century it is said that King Aun of Sweden sacrificed his sons in return for a long life.
  • Ancient Mayans, in what is now southern Mexico, sacrificed their captured enemies at the top of their pyramids, from the 3rd to the 9th century, and on into the post-classical period. Likewise the Aztecs in what is now central Mexico, did the same  in the 14th  and 15th century
  • The Phoenicians (2500 – 500 BCE) and the people of their colony in Carthage (814 – 156 BCE) are also thought to have practiced the sacrifice of children.
  • The Canaanites, related to the Phoenicians, are accused of sacrificing children to the god Molech. Kings Ahaz & Manassah of Judah – Israelite kings – are accused of and roundly condemned for sacrificing their children in the valley of the Son of Hinnom; this is described as an abominable act, something only the followers of false gods would do.
Moloch

The vision of Moloch in the movie “Metropolis” (1927).

So what is happening in this reading from Genesis? Why does God put Abraham to the test? Why does God demand such a horrible thing?

Readings of The Akedah

In Jewish tradition this story is referred to as The Binding of Isaac, or The Akedah (“Binding” in Hebrew).

Most Jewish commentators see it as a sign of Abraham’s faith. God promised that he would make out of Isaac a great nation. Would Abraham believe this even when commanded to seemingly put an end to the promise by sacrificing his son?  The assumption here is that Abraham believed so strongly that God would keep his promise that he did not worry himself about the result of the sacrifice – God would somehow make it all right.  Either God would intervene (as he did), and Abraham knew by faith that God would not let him kill Isaac, or perhaps some other miracle would happen.

Other Jewish rabbis see it as a more profound test of Abraham, one which he failed. Abraham was given an illegal command, and he should have argued with God on behalf of Isaac and his posterity, as the prophet Moses interceded for Israel with the Lord at Sinai. God saw that Abraham was going to go through with it, and blinked first, in horror that Abraham did not hesitate. Yes, Abraham had faith, but it was not a mature, rational faith, but a blind, fanatical type. We would have to wait for later prophets like Moses before we found a faith strong enough to argue with God. And the immediate result? We read in the next chapter that Sarah died, and commentators suggest that this was from shock. The rabbis also note that God does not speak to Abraham again in the Book of Genesis, as if there was nothing more to be said.

Christians, of course, see the Binding of Isaac as a prefiguring of the sacrifice his only Son Jesus Christ for us. Jesus finding himself in a sinful world, makes atonement for those sins as a voluntary sacrifice. The faithfulness of Christ, obedient unto death, stands in place of our own sinfulness. This is not the only theology of atonement, but it is a popular one for those who believe God’s justice demands capital punishment for the myriad sins of each person. However, many of us recoil from such an image of God, one who seems to force his son to die for unworthy humanity. My own approach to the atonement sees it in the larger context of the Incarnation and Resurrection. The incarnation is about bringing humanity to its fulfillment through union with the divine, and would be necessary even in a world without sin.   But the world is broken, fragile, and filled with sin and oppression, and God in Christ still does not hesitate to join humanity in a fallen world. This emptying of the divine into the world, in human form, is a voluntary sacrifice of solidarity with the oppressed, and despite suffering the worst the world can do, Jesus overcomes suffering and death in the resurrection. God begins a new creation in resurrection.

What is the Value of a Life?

Let’s put it another way. Do we sacrifice people today?

An obvious truth is that our sons and daughters still go to war, and it is a given that a certain number of them will die. These are sacrifices that are offered voluntarily by the armed forces, on the understanding that the protection of our nations and values are worth it.That said, while we trust our civilian leaders with the power to command soldiers, sailors, and aviators to go into battle, at the same time we also expect that they will do all they can to protect them with the best training and equipment, and to be strategic in their deployment.

More generally, actuaries, civil engineers, and bureaucrats know that certain deaths are preventable. How much money – money that comes from our taxes – are we willing to spend to avoid preventable deaths? Where do we spend in order to have improvements to automobiles, highways, and our streets and houses, so that deaths can be avoided? This covers everything from proper sewage to water systems, fire departments and hydrants, and the requirement of consumer safety. What restrictions on our liberty are we willing to accept for the well-being of all?

venice-us41-bypass-alternatives-25-728

From a 2011 power-point presentation. It argued that a series of roundabouts on a road in Los Angeles would move traffic more safely and quickly than widening the four lanes by two more lanes.  

This is not a meaningless question, or one without an answer. Consider:

  • The UK government has an official Value of a Prevented Fatality. This is the money that is considered well spent if it prevents a death in a calendar year – money spent on healthcare, road safety, and the like. The VPF currently sits at £1.8 million. You never knew you were worth that much, eh?
  • This number is actually considered low, because in the US the figure used by the United States Department of Transportation is currently USD $9.6 million (approximately £7.8 million).
  • In Canada the VPL is CAD $5.6 million, or £3.3, so does that mean my life is worth more than someone’s from the UK? Hmmmm.
  • In Greece the number is, unsurprisingly, low, only around €206,000. This is probably because they simply do not have the resources to spend on infrastructure.

But there are other situations where there are conflicts between the lives of others and the values of a people. So, for example,

  • in the immediate situation what is more important – protecting the lives of the most vulnerable among us from Covid-19, or the rights of businesses to make money? Are we willing to accept curfews, lockdowns, and so forth to prevent the spread of the disease? How much damage to the economy are we willing to accept? How in debt should governments be willing to go to keep people out of poverty?
  • What is more important, protecting the economy and jobs by supporting  energy companies, or do we need to force companies and consumers to pay for their environmental effects, perhaps by imposing carbon taxes, or being forced towards emission-less production. If global warming is to be avoided, are we willing to pay the price now, or do we disregard it and leave the profound consequences for subsequent generations?
  • in the United States, (and I love the peoples of the United States, don’t get me wrong here) there is an idolatry called defending the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. Despite the fact that in every other wealthy country it is understood that gun laws can reduce the mortality rate, Americans will not accept restrictions on the right to bear arms. Every time we hear of a gun rampage in a school, we have had another sacrifice to the idol of the Second Amendment.
  • Again, despite collectively spending more on health care than any other rich nation, the United States has rejected universal health care. The historical reason this is so, argue some, is not so much that universal health care is perceived as being socialist as it is the case that back in the middle of the last century Southern politicians refused to spend tax money to improve the health of African Americans. The political leaders of the United States back then and now would rather sacrifice the poor and vulnerable rather than inconvenience those who benefit from the inequality of the current system.

What are the gods of today demanding?
What is our response?

The horror we sense at the story of the Sacrifice of Isaac should be equaled by the horror we sense at the willingness of leaders and many in our population to sacrifice others on abstract principles, economic gain, or political advantage. I am with the rabbis who believe that Abraham failed the test that God commanded of him. When we are confronted with the injunction to sacrifice others in the name of this modern day god or that, what will be our response?

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Resources for the Third Sunday after Trinity

These are resources for the Third Sunday after Trinity (Fourth Sunday after Pentecost), June 28, 2020, gathered from a variety of sources and, while assembled mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, others may find them useful!

the-sacrifice-of-isaac-1966.jpg!Large

The Sacrifice of Isaac (1966), Marc Chagall, from the Chagall Museum in Nice

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There are several ways you can join in worship this coming Sunday, June 28, 2020.

First, you can join us for worship in person.

  • We meet this coming Sunday, June 28, 2020 at 11:00 am EEST at the Tabernacle of the Church of St Thomas, Kefalas.
  • It will be a Holy Communion according to Common Worship.
  • People should come only if they are comfortable with being out and about as the pandemic restrictions are being lifted, and are in good health.
  • Those of you were were there last week and are coming again, please remember to return with your hymn book, psalter, and service booklet!

It appears that God and telecommunications are willing, so you can join us in the worship service via Zoom. Click on the link below, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85044839927?pwd=TkQ1cHEzNUNjSjVCNTNJVUJwSkZaQT09

Third, you can simply do it all yourself – read the lessons and pray the prayers below, as well as listen to the recorded sermon, and intersperse it all by clicking on the links to the hymns.

Read

The Church of England Common Worship Lectionary/Revised Common Lectionary readings for this Sunday are: Genesis 22:1-14, Psalm 13, Romans 6:12-23, and Matthew 10:40-42. At St Thomas’s we will use these, omitting the reading from Romans.

Reflect

I will be preaching on the Genesis reading again, and it is, as last week, one of those Texts of Terror. I will post the sermon on Sunday after preaching it.

The Anglican Church of St Paul’s, Athens appears to be observing the Feast of St Peter & St Paul (transferred from June 29; readings here); this is Father Leonard Doolan’s pre-recorded sermon:

Here is a poem cycle meditation on the Binding of Isaac (as it is known in Judaism, in Hebrew, the Akedah) by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat of Congregation Beth Israel, a congregation in western Massachusetts. It is EXCELLENT.

Pray

Collect
Almighty God,
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

God our saviour,
look on this wounded world
in pity and in power;
hold us fast to your promises of peace
won for us by your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Intercessions
Biddings
I bid your prayers for:

  • for the over 9.3 million people infected by the Coronavirus, and for healthcare workers; the families of the 480,000 dead;
  • for the unemployed, those who were not working before the pandemic, and those who have been made redundant since it began; and
  • for minorities and people of colour demanding justice in the face of ongoing violence and discrimination.

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.

Almighty and ever-living God, who by thy holy apostle hast taught us to make prayers and supplications, and to give thanks, for all men: we humbly beseech thee most mercifully to receive these our prayers, which we offer unto thy divine majesty; beseeching thee to inspire continually the universal Church with the spirit of truth, unity and concord; and grant that all they that do confess thy holy name may agree in the truth of thy holy word, and live in unity and godly love.

We beseech thee also to lead all nations in the way of righteousness and peace; and so to direct all kings and rulers, that under them thy people may be godly and quietly governed. And grant unto thy servant Elizabeth our Queen, and to all that are put in authority under her, that they may truly and impartially administer justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of thy true religion and virtue.

Give grace, O heavenly Father, to all bishops, priests and deacons, especially to thy servants Robert and David our bishops, that they may both by their life and doctrine set forth thy true and lively word, and rightly and duly administer thy holy sacraments.

Guide and prosper, we pray thee, those who are labouring for the spread of thy gospel among the nations, and enlighten with thy Spirit all places of education and learning; that the whole world may be filled with the knowledge of thy truth.

And to all thy people give thy heavenly grace; and specially to this congregation here present, that, with meek heart and due reverence, they may hear and receive thy holy word, truly serving thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life.

And we most humbly beseech thee of thy goodness, O Lord, to comfort and succour all them who in this transitory life are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity.

And we commend to thy gracious keeping, O Lord, all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear, beseeching thee, according to thy promises, to grant them refreshment, light and peace.

And here we give thee most high praise and hearty thanks for all thy saints, who have been the chosen vessels of thy grace, and lights of the world in their several generations; and we pray that, rejoicing in their fellowship and following their good examples, we may be partakers with them of thy heavenly kingdom.

Grant this, O Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our only mediator and advocate. Amen.

Sing

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