“For God so loved the world . . .”

A Sermon Preached on The Fourth Sunday of Lent
(following the Julian Calendar used to calculate Easter in Greece)
April 11, 2021, at 11:00 am
for an Online Service with The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
.

The readings were: Numbers 21:4-9 (the serpent of bronze); Psalm 107.1-3, 17-32 (“Those who go down to the sea in ships”); Ephesians 2:1-10 (God made us alive together with Christ); and John 3:14-21 (the Son of Man must be lifted up).

This may not be the most effective way to spread the gospel.
However, it is a great way to get tasered!

Οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλὰ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. John 3.16

Let us parse this well known verse.

The words are familiar, but we may not be reading them the way the author intended.

The Son here is Jesus of Nazareth. We already know from the first verses of the first chapter of John’s gospel that the Word is divine, and is God, and the Son here is the Word made flesh.

God here means God the Father. So we see the first person of the Holy Trinity giving the second person of that same Holy Trinity to the world.

Giving in John means the incarnation, the Word being made flesh, so that we can see the glory of God. When Jesus speaks, when he heals, when he turns water into wine, and when he drives out demons, we are seeing the glory of God in the human being called Jesus. When Jesus is lifted up in his crucifixion, it as similar to the bronze serpent that was also lifted up, and was held to have healing powers.

Love in the gospel of John means that selfless offering of oneself. It is not an annihilation of one’s self. It is a sharing that transforms a person, that adds to one’s life, that completes you.

“Only,” in the term “only Son,” refers to the unique relationship Jesus has with the Father. We are told that we can only know the Father through the Son. Jesus, then, is a special revelation, apart from the revelation given to us in scriptures or in nature.

The world in John’s gospel is not all of creation, but the human world, which can respond to the Son who is given.

Belief is mainly a response to seeing the glory of God. It is not so much giving acknowledgement to a proposition as it is to respond with trust and worship. It is fundamentally relational, and should be understood as full of praise and thanksgiving. It is rooted in the Incarnation, in the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection, as well as what Jesus taught and what he did, and how we read the Hebrew scriptures in relation to him and how we see the history of the church and humanity since then.

Perish could also be translated as “lost.” It refers to what happens when one sees the light of God in Christ, but rejects it. One is lost to God, to the true nature of creation, and one’s place in it.

Eternal life in John does not refer to heaven, but to the life of the divine, in which we can share. Obviously, God does not live the way we do, as biological creatures, so this is an analogous meaning. But the Biblical witness is that God is the life-giver, the one who breathes life into the primordial human being named Adam. Jesus says elsewhere that he came to give life, and that those who have it might have it in abundance (John 10.10). Faith in Jesus, responding to his glory, and trusting in him gives us access to this eternal life, this life of God. It is not something that is “pie in the sky” but something we can access right here and now. The fullness will come later, but we can begin now.

This is reinforced by the passage in Ephesians which states:

God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ

We are alive now. We have already been lifted up into the heavenly places with Christ. In the times to come we will see what the riches of that heavenly, eternal life are. And all of this is the free gift of God, given to us in Christ Jesus, not on the basis of anything we do, but out of absurdly generous, forgiving, desperate and spendthrift love.

How Big is God’s Love?

Consider the revelation of God in creation.

  • Up until the 1920s it was thought that there was only one galaxy, our own, the Milky Way, which is in itself an amazing sight. But we now know that there are 200 billion galaxies. TWO HUNDRED BILLION. Each one of those galaxies contains billions of galaxies. The small ones, dwarf galaxies, have only a few billion. Some massive elliptical galaxies have over one hundred trillion stars. The number of stars in the Universe is beyond human imagination. That’s how much God loves you.
“This . . . image [from the Hubble Deep Field], consisting of a region of space barely a thousandth of a square degree on the sky — so small it would take thirty-two-million of them to fill the entire sky — contains a whopping 5,500 galaxies, the most distant of which have had their light traveling towards us for some 13 billion years, or more than 90% the present age of the Universe. Extrapolating this over the entire sky, we find that there are 170 billion galaxies in the observable Universe, and that’s just a lower limit.” Ethan Siegel
  • The earth we walk on, the bodies we have, every living creature around us, and the planets and even the Sun – all were forged out of the material of stars that exploded billions of years ago and then, under the force of gravity, came together again to make our solar system and this planet earth. Except for hydrogen and helium, all the elements were created in the hearts of the sun using fusion, at 16 million degrees. That’s how much God loves you.
The core of a high-mass star creates elements by fusion, the result of a combination of gravity and heat; the deeper in the star, the greater the capacity to create elements with higher molecular weight.
  • It is thought that on earth there are some estimated to be between 8 and 8.7 million species. This includes everything from the bacteria that turns goat’s milk into yogurt to the bugs living in your intestine and helping you to break down your breakfast. They are the fish at the bottom of the ocean withstanding massive pressures, and birds that fly eleven km in the air. They make cute pets and ferocious apex predators. Of these 8 million or so species, only about 14% of these had been described by biologists. This incredible diversity – that’s how much God loves you.
  • The human brain is the most complex thing on earth. There are 86 billion nerve cells in the average human brain, giving us the capacity to speak, to work, to dream. While we have made great strides in understanding the brain, we really have no idea how this conglomeration of nerve cells allows things like consciousness or language to emerge. And yet, this 1.3 kg lump of flesh has given rise to the drama of a Shakespeare, the compassion of a Florence Nightingale, the brilliance of an Albert Einstein, the mysteries of Agatha Christie, the depravity of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, and the ordinary love of a parent for a child, or exhilaration two people who have just discovered each other. That’s how much God loves us.

As Christians, as a people journeying to Holy Week and the narratives of the Passion of Christ, we believe that God loves us so much that in Christ Jesus he was reconciling the world to himself. We believe that in Jesus we see the Father, and that in his death and resurrection we have already died to sin and death and are raised to eternal life. That’s how much God loves us. May we respond with faith and praise.

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The Foolishness of the Commandments

A Sermon Preached on The Third Sunday of Lent
(following the Julian Calendar used to calculate Easter in Greece)
April 4, 2021, at 11:00 am
for an Online Service with The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
.

The readings used were: Exodus 20:1-17 (The Ten Commandments), Psalm 19 (The Torah Reflects Creation), 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom) and John 2:13-22 (Jesus Cleanses the Temple).

If you are looking for an Easter sermon, here is the one I would have preached last year had we been allowed to gather in churches, and if we had started to do services online by then. Since it never actually was preached, I may use it this year, when we in Greece get to Easter on May 2, 2021!

The Ten Commandments in St Anthony’s Church, Cartmel Fell, Cumbria, England

The Ten Commandments are not what they used to be.

Did you have to memorise the Catechism? Many older Anglicans did. It was, and still is, the expectation in the Book of Common Prayer, that people preparing for confirmation would learn it by heart. It used to be the practice that

The Curate of every Parish shall diligently upon Sundays and Holy-days, after the second Lesson at Evening Prayer, openly in the Church instruct and examine so many Children of his Parish sent unto him, as he shall think convenient, in some part of this Catechism.

And all Fathers, Mothers, Masters, and Dames, shall cause their Children, Servants, and Prentices, (which have not learned their Catechism,) to come to the Church at the time appointed, and obediently to hear and be ordered by the Curate, until such time as they have learned all that is here appointed for them to learn.

So soon as Children are come to a competent age, and can say, in their mother tongue, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments; and also can answer to the other questions of this short Catechism; they shall be brought to the Bishop: Book of Common Prayer (1662), p. 296

This is why one finds in old churches boards with the Ten Commandments and the Apostles Creed and the Lord’s Prayer – to assist those who could read in memorising them. Today, though, I suspect relatively few people learn the Ten Commandments in the way they did a hundred years ago. I expect that if you were to ask the average person in England to name them they would remember only some of them.

For many modern people the Ten Commandments is an old movie with Charlton Heston, and not much more. The commandments sound quaint, well-meaning, perhaps patriarchal, and not terribly relevant.

Not Charlton Heston

There is an old joke about them. Moses comes down from the mountain, and he says to the Children of Israel, “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that I got ’em down to ten. The bad news is, the one about adultery is still in there.” We laugh, of course, because we know all too well the predisposition of people to ignore the bonds of matrimony. However, we do not see it as criminal, but rather, as something between consenting adults. Since 1970 adultery is no longer a crime under English Law, and it is no longer a crime anywhere in Europe; it comes as a shock to some that in many jurisdictions in the United States it remains on the books, including in the military, and there are still occasional prosecutions. However, it is no longer a bar to success, or even to highest office in the land, whether the UK or the USA.

And, more obviously, we do not observe the Sabbath. As we know, living in Greece, το Σαββατο is Saturday. The Greek’s took the name directly from Hebrew and gave it to the seventh day of the week. And in Hebrew it is תבש, the root of which simply means “cease”.

Some of us see Sunday as the Christian Sabbath, but this is a late development, associated with the Puritans and some parts of the Reformation. Sunday was always a feast day, a day to cease work to go to church, but if one had to work, one could. And I do not see any footnote in the Ten Commandment allowing us to transfer the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week.

And as for the other commandments? Well, consider the prohibition of idolatry. I grew up in a church that, under Calvinist influence, was hesitant to ever allow any depictions of Jesus. That was something Catholics did, with their statues and stations of the cross. Indeed, it was only a few years before I was baptised that my home church even had a cross in it. The prohibition against depicting God was taken seriously in the late Roman Empire, in the Iconoclastic era of the 8th century when most icons and church decorations under the Byzantine Emperors were destroyed or replaced. Nowadays, of course, most of us have icons, this Tabernacle has icons, and many Protestant churches use them as means to contemplate God. And as for the tenth, the prohibition against coveting something – isn’t our whole economy based on wanting things that our neighbours have? Aren’t we supposed to keep up with the Jones?

So what are we to do? Are the Ten Commandments irrelevant?

Counter-Cultural Commandments

I suggest to you that, for us as Christians, the value of the Ten Commandments is not in the literally following of them, but in the recognition of justice that is inherent in them. We are called to apply the principles in them for our times.

God begins with the reminder that as YHWH he redeemed the people of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. YHWH is a God who liberates, who frees slaves, and is opposed to the imperial forces of Egypt, just as Jesus called into question the arrogant claims of the Roman Empire. God claims the people of Israel, and God, through Christ, has a claim on us by virtue of our baptisms. The relationship is not just that of the Creator – it is special – God is the redeemer of this particular people. As Paul puts it, we have been bought with a price, and we find in service our perfect freedom.

If you don’t have a large container ship handy, this is another way to cross over to Sinai.

This sounds like foolishness to much of the world. Real freedom is not in religion, but is in being unencumbered by rules and regulations, eschewing dogma and doctrine, and acknowledging no greater authority than one’s own self. But we who are known by God in Jesus find in Christ a wisdom beyond that of the sages of this world.

The real idols in the world today are not made with paint and wood or stone, but are constructed in more subtle ways.

  • The nation-state has been an idol, one to which too often we sacrifice our youth.
  • If you are a Marxist then one’s idol is history as worked out by class conflict. Individuals cease to be terribly important in the grand scheme of things as history marches forward to the glories of communism.
  • If you are an old-fashioned Tory, the idol is the maintenance of the class system, with aristocracy, landed gentry, and the peasantry – the rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate.
  • The superiority of one “race” over another has justified theft and economic exploitation, and in some cases has led to genocide.
  • If you are an old-fashioned economic liberal, the idol is the invisible hand of God in the free market, which supposedly benefits everybody, and the most vulnerable simply have to put up with the costs of creative destruction.
  • In the 1930s balanced budgets and the value of the currency served as idols, which resulted in a depressed economy and widespread unemployment.
  • In Canada the idol was the culture of the settlers, in whose image the churches and governments sought to remake the Indigenous peoples through the Indian Residential Schools.

All of these idols are false, and our worship of them has not served us well. So, the second commandment, the one against idolatry is still valid – we just need to apply it differently. This is God the liberator telling us to watch out where we put our values.

What about number four, the one about the Sabbath? Notice that it says nothing about going to the Synagogue or the Temple – it’s all about stopping work. Someone once suggested that this is a commandment about justice – that the person in power has to make sure that everybody gets at least one day off out of seven – one’s children, one’s servants and slaves, and even the animals. While the property owners and slave owners could choose to work or not, the slaves and hired hands had no choice. This was God the liberator telling the powerful that even the least among them deserved one day off in every seven.

The fifth commandment says to honour one’s parents – and this is likewise a matter of justice. In ancient times there were no pensions, and so children were expected to take care of the elderly, and to respect their wisdom. Today we live in a society that fetishizes youth. The elderly are often excluded from ordinary life with other generations. The great thing about churches is that we are typically intergenerational, with children, people in their early careers, young parents, singles, and the elderly all together in one messy mess.

The Seventh Commandment (1961) is no cinematic masterpiece.”
“The acting is not as bad as you’d expect in an early 60s low-budget movie.”
From here.

The seventh commandment, the one against adultery, may not just be about breaching solemn contracts, but it, too, may be a matter of justice. The Ten Commandments come from an extremely patriarchal world. Men enjoyed privilege and power; they could divorce their wives if they wanted to, and there was not much that the woman could do. However, men could also try to have their cake and eat it, too. The prohibition against adultery may have been a means of protection for the woman in the relationship. If the man could commit adultery with impunity, that means he could cast the woman aside, and still enjoy all the benefits of matrimony – which involved control of any property she brought into the marriage, something he would have lost with a divorce. As well, if the man had slaves, he could have sex with them and there, again, the slave could not do much about it – the slaveowner in that patriarchal, slave-owning society, could assault their human property with impunity. So the prohibition against adultery may also be a protection for the slaves from sexualized violence. We are a long ways away from the modern understanding of marriage centered on love and equality, but behind this ancient commandment is a God who liberates and protects the vulnerable.

Even the tenth commandment is relevant. If you covet something of your neighbour’s, then you have misplaced desire. Your desire should be for God. Desire for God translates into desiring the best for one’s neighbours. The problems with our society almost always revolve around misplaced desire, or the fear that we do not have enough, or that someone else has what we ought to have. The only thing we do not have enough of is the desire for God. The problem with the money changers and people selling animals in the Temple was that they were more interested in profit than in God.

God’s Foolishness

Psalm 19 has two parts, one in which is sung, “The heavens declare the glory of God, * and the firmament shows his handiwork” and the second in which the psalmist proclaims, “The law of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul; * the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.” God’s “law” – the word in Hebrew is Torah – compares and elevates together the “heavens” and the “instruction” of God. Both reveal who God is, as Creator and as the Righteous One. Many people find the divine in nature, and some seem to rely on revelation alone, but the scripture here argues that we need both. Working from the revelation of both scripture and nature, and using our God-given minds, we can see the glory of God before us.

The Ten Commandments are foolishness to many, a set of rules whose time has passed. May I suggest to you that in them we see the wisdom of God, the way in which God wants us to become the beautiful, amazing creatures that we were made to be. That wisdom took on flesh and lived among us in the person of Jesus Christ, who called attention to the one who sent him, and in whom we find the divine life. As we continue our journey from Ashes to Easter, may we continue to

proclaim Christ crucified,
a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom,
and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

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An Unsettling Lent

A Sermon Preached on The First Sunday of Lent
March 21, 2021 at 11:00 am
for an Online Service with The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
.

The readings used were: Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25:1-9, 1 Peter 3:18-22, and Mark 1:9-15.

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.. Mark 1.12

Driven

This morning I want to talk about the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit comes upon people, and very often they act in unexpected ways, and peculiar things happen.

  • In our gospel reading today the Holy Spirit comes down upon Jesus, and he is driven out into the desert.
  • In the Acts of the Apostles the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples in the upper room, and they begin to preach the good news in a variety of languages, prefiguring the spread of the gospel to all nations.
  • Paul experiences the Holy Spirit and has a multitude of gifts, including speaking in tongues, in the language of angels, as he puts it.
  • A thousand years before Jesus Saul the king of Judah and Israel is driven into ecstatic dancing and prophesying.
  • Ezekiel in the spirit sees the glory of God descend from heaven.
  • And, ultimately, driven or guided by the Holy Spirit, Jesus goes to Jerusalem, and is arrested, and dies.
  • But even then, the spirit is not done. In death Jesus goes and makes “a proclamation to the spirits in prison” according to the First Letter of Peter.

What is the Spirit Calling Us to Do?

Some of you, I know, have had a very powerful experience of the Holy Spirit.

Others of us discern God’s activity in our lives only after the fact. So, I, for example, experienced the Holy Spirit drawing me

  • into refugee work back in Canada,
  • into advocacy against legislation that harmed the lives of sex workers,
  • into acting to locate a community food bank in the church building,
  • into working to establish a centre for at-risk youth,
  • into dealing with sexual misconduct and bullying, advocating for complainants and victims,
  • and being slightly involved in advocacy for the homeless.

None of this was work that I looked for, but God brought it to me. It was all utterly unexpected. I was driven to it by the Spirit.

My dissertation is called Unsettling Theology. It is unsettling because I wanted to write about how Christians can decolonise their thinking, to stop unconsciously oppressing Indigenous peoples. It is also unsettling because it is not comforting, but rather it causes people to be restless and ill at ease with the legacy of the past and its manifestations in the present. I think the Holy Spirit drove me to write this very unsettling dissertation.

Sometimes the Spirit calls us into conflict – as Jesus was called into temptation, and was with the wild beasts. And yet we are ministered to by the angels with all kinds of unseen help.

Lent is often viewed as a season in which we let of things in order to discipline ourselves. And yet, this year, we have been driven into the wilderness of the pandemic, confronted with: lockdowns; solitude; loneliness; for many, reduced income; and being forced to learn new skills, like Zoom. What, if anything, are we learning in this desert?

  • Have we learned to take time to pray?
  • Do we notice our breath?
  • Do we notice the breath of God in our own?
  • Have we appreciated the beauty of creation around us, and the divine reflected in it?
  • Have we reckoned with the shortness of life, and the precious nature of each moment, as a gift?
  • Are we grateful for the people who have reached out to us?
  • Do we appreciate the restless nature of God’s time, which allows us to call into question the ways of the world?
  • Have we found our rest in God: the source of all being, the Eternal Word, and Holy Spirit?

This Lent

My hope and my prayer is that we will be ministered to by the messengers of God.
My hope and prayer is that we know that in Christ we are loved and God is pleased with us.
My hope and prayer for this Lent is that we are all unsettled by the Holy Spirit, and driven to overcome all that threatens us.

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Resources for Mothering Sunday 2021

These are worship resources for Mothering Sunday 2021, held on the Fourth Sunday of Lent. 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.

My mother, when she was still Mary Ardelle Burns. This is her graduation photo from Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec, circa 1948, when she was 22.

A Note on Mothering Sunday

Hot on the heels of International Women’s Day this year comes Mothering Sunday, which is celebrated in the United Kingdom and Ireland, but very few other places. It is held on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, and so is a moveable feast. The very similar Mother’s Day is held on the second Sunday in May, which this year is May 9. Mother’s Day started in 1908 in the United States, and has since spread to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In reaction to a perceived secularism and commercialism of Mother’s Day, Constance Penswick Smith in England started the Mothering Sunday movement in 1913, claiming roots in medieval and early modern traditions. The Fourth Sunday of Lent was supposedly a day when servants would go home from their places of work and visit their mothers and attend church in which they had been baptised – their mother church. Presented as a revival in 1913, by the 1950s its observance had become quite common in Britain and Ireland and some commonwealth nations. The Book of Common Prayer knows nothing about it, but Common Worship has a wealth of resources for us, which are incorporated in our worship this Sunday online at St Thomas’s,

Share

We will be observing Mothering Sunday on the same day as people in England. This will be a Zoom-only service. Please join us by clicking this link or by entering the following into your Zoom application:
Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927
Passcode: 010209.
We will be joined by our Diocesan Bishop, the Rt Rev Dr Robert Innes, who will lead parts of the service and preach.

An Order for Mothering Sunday can be downloaded below. It has the lyrics of the hymns we will be singing, as well as the readings. You do not need to download it, though – whatever will be said by the people in the service will be shared on the Zoom screen.

Read

The readings appointed for Mothering Sunday are: Exodus 2.1-10, Psalm 127.1-4, Colossians 3.12-17, and John 19.25-27.

Reflect

Last year on the Fourth Sunday of Lent we were under a lockdown, but had not yet begun to do services on Zoom. Instead I directed folks to bigger churches that were doing pre-recorded services or livestreams. I did write some thoughts about the readings for Mothering Sunday, which you can find by clicking here.

You can listen to a pre-recorded sermon by Fr Leonard Doolan of St Paul’s Church, Athens here:

Fr Leonard Doolan – Mothering Sunday 2021

Pray

The Collect
God of compassion,
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth,
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:
strengthen us in our daily living
that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your presence
to bind together and to heal;
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

An Intercession.
As children of a loving God who always listens to our cries,
let us pray to our Father in heaven.

The person leading the prayers may add particular requests and thanksgivings to the following.

Loving God, you have given us the right to be called children of God. Help us to show your love in our homes that they may be places of love, security and truth.
God of love,
All   hear our prayer.

Loving God, Jesus, your Son, was born into the family of Mary and Joseph; bless all parents and all who care for children; strengthen those families living under stress and may your love be known where no human love is found.
God of love,
All   hear our prayer.

Loving God, we thank you for the family of the Church. We pray that all may find in her their true home; that the lonely, the marginalized, the rejected may be welcomed and loved in the name of Jesus.
God of love,
All   hear our prayer.

Loving God, as we see the brokenness of our world we pray for healing among the nations; for food where there is hunger; for freedom where there is oppression; for joy where there is pain; that your love may bring peace to all your children.
God of love,
All   hear our prayer.

At the end of which we pray:
Praise God who loves us.
All   Praise God who cares.

For the care of mothers;
All   Thanks be to God.

For their patience when tested;
All   Thanks be to God.

For their love when tired;
All   Thanks be to God.

For their hope when despairing;
All   Thanks be to God.

For their service without limit;
All   Thanks be to God.

Biddings
I bid your prayers for the Church:

I bid your prayers for the leaders and people of the nations; especially

I bid your prayers for the sick and suffering and all who minister to their needs;

  • remembering the over twenty-one million active cases of the novel coronavirus, giving thanks that this numbers are beginning to go down in some countries; has begun to go down;
  • mourning with the families of the over 2.61 million who have died in the pandemic;
  • for the 820,000 people in the UK with active cases of covid-19, the over 124,500 who have died of it there, and the 23,406 active cases here in Greece, and the families of the over 6797 dead here;
  • remembering those ill with other diseases, and those whose operations have been postponed;
  • all those having issues with mental health;
  • those suffering from addiction, and those in recovery;
  • those who have been affected severely by the economic effects of the pandemic, especially in food services and tourism;
  • and giving thanks for the efforts of researchers in finding vaccines, and for the rollout of vaccines across the world.

Sing

Hymn: God of Eve and God of Mary    Tune: Love Divine by John Stainer   

1 God of Eve and God of Mary,
God of love and mother-earth,
thank you for the ones who with us
shared their life and gave us birth.

2 As you came to earth in Jesus,
so you come to us today;
you are present in the caring
that prepares us for life’s way.

3 Thank you that the Church, our Mother,
gives us bread and fills our cup,
and the comfort of the Spirit
warms our hearts and lifts us up.

4 Thank you for belonging, shelter,
bonds of friendship, ties of blood,
and for those who have no children,
yet are parents under God.

5 God of Eve and God of Mary,
Christ our brother, human Son,
Spirit, caring like a Mother,
take our love and make us one!

Fathers and Mothers

1 Fathers and mothers,
sisters and brothers,
     all those who love us,
          for whom we care:
help and befriend them,
keep and defend them,
     Jesus our Saviour,
          this is our prayer.

2 And for those others,
fathers and mothers,
     children who hunger,
          they must be fed:
we would be caring,
readily sharing,
     one with another
          our daily bread.

3 Sisters and brothers,
fathers and mothers,
     we who together
          offer our praise:
hear our thanksgiving,
God ever living,
     may we walk with you
          all of our days.

Hymn: Canticle of the Turning
A Paraphrase of the Magnificat, The Song of Mary
https://youtu.be/F9QeTmRCpW4

1 My soul cries out with a joyful shout
that the God of my heart is great,
and my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on your servant’s plight
and my weakness you did not spurn.
So from east to west shall my name be blest;
could the world be about to turn?
Refrain:
     My heart shall sing of the day you bring;
     let the fires of your justice burn!
     Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
     and the world is about to turn!

2 Though I am small, my God, my all,
you work great things in me,
and your mercy will last from the depths of the past
to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame,
and to those who would for you yearn,
you will show your might,
put the strong to flight
for the world is about to turn.
Refrain

3 From the halls of power to the fortress tower
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware, for your justice tears
ev’ry tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more
for the food they can never earn;
there are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed
For the world is about to turn.
Refrain

4 Though the nations rage from age to age
we remember who holds us fast.
God’s mercy must deliver us
from the conqueror’s crushing grasp.
This saving word that out forebears heard
is the promise which holds us bound
’til the spear and rod can be crushed by God
who is turning the world around
Refrain    
     My heart shall sing of the day you bring;
     let the fires of your justice burn!
     Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
     and the world is about to turn!       

        

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A Few Thoughts About Discipleship

A Sermon Preached on The Second Sunday Before Lent
March 7, 2021 at 11:00 am
for an Online Service with The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
.

The readings used were 2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, and Mark 9:2-9.

I could preach about the Transfiguration today – but the readings are taking me in a different direction: discipleship. So here are a few thoughts about that.

The Discipleship of the Twelve

Let’s first think about the Twelve, the first disciples. Of course, they were not the only ones – we read that there were maybe 120 at the time of the resurrection, and this included many women, and, of course, Jesus sent out the Seventy, But let’s think about the Twelve, those people chosen by Jesus to symbolise the twelve tribes of Israel. We read in Mark:

“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. Mark 9.7-8

“Listen to him!” Christian discipleship is fundamentally about listening to Jesus. “They saw . . . only Jesus.” The centraility of Jesus and paying attention to his teaching seems like the obvious centre of being a disviple, but so often we get distracted. We allow ourselves to procrastinate about paying attention to Jesus, or we get caught up in the secondary details of a text. Perhaps we try and explain away the hard things he says. Passages like,

  • You cannot serve God and wealth. Matthew 6:24
  • But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5.39-42
  • I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5.44
  • Do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” Matthew 6.31

And that’s just a bunch from the Sermon on the Mount. There’s more from where that came from. But we are called to listen to his words, and then apply them. It is a process, and we make progress.

A second aspect of discipleship is that it is about proclamation. As Paul writes in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, “We proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ”: that the creator of all things is not indifferent, but loves us, and wants us to become more like his Son, and that we can do that by the power of the Holy Spirit. We proclaim Christ in word and deed.

Finally, discipleship is not about getting it all right. This is obvious from the way the gospels describe the Twelve Disciples.

  • Especially in the Gospel of Mark they always seem to be a bit dense, constantly asking Jesus to explain things.
  • In today’s gospel, the top three of the Twelve – Simon Peter, James, and John – do not understand what they are seeing and say silly things, like, “Let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
  • When Jesus says that the Son of Man will be betrayed and executed, and then rise up after three days, the disciples try to stop him from saying this.
  • Despite the predictions, the resurrection seems to come to them as a surprise.
  • Certainly not well-educated or part of the elite.
  • One denies him, another betrays him, and the rest all abandon him, except for the women (and, in the fourth gospel, the disciple whom Jesus loved, traditionally identified with John).

Intensity & Continuity

Let’s broaden this to think about the work of Paul, and the efforts of Elijah and Elisha.

Discipleship is an intense thing. Look at how Jesus is with the disciples. See how Paul is with the Corinthians. See the close relationship Elisha has with Elijah. To be a disciple is to be in that intense kind of relationship. Now, one cannot be that intense all the time – but there are times we need to work on that relationship, when we have a steep learning curve about what it is to follow Jesus.

There is also a cost of discipleship, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer would put it. Elisha loses his master, but receives a double share of his spirit. Lent is traditionally a time to intensify that relationship; we give things up, or adopt a discipline, in order to draw closer to God in Christ. Paul describes himself as a slave to the church in Corinth, but the payoff is that the church members grow in faith. Peter, James, and John are terrified, confused, but they eventually become the means of proclaiming the good news.

Discipleship is also about continuity in the midst of change. Elijah is succeeded by Elisha. He is very different from his master, but continues proclaiming that only the Lord is God, and challenging the unfaithful monarchs of Israel. Paul, the apostles, and all the anonymous bearers of the gospel are followed by generations of Christians in all kinds of different churches spreading east and west from Judea. And so we find ourselves in a chain of transmission.

We are About Disciples

Our calling as Christians is to proclaim the good news, make disciples by teaching them everything we learned from Jesus, and baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And this we do by listening to his voice. We don’t always get it right. Things may not be intense enough. But we continue, to the glory of God.

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Resources for the Second Sunday of Lent

These are worship resources for The Second Sunday of Lent, 2021. 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.

Abraham and Sarah (1956) by Marc Chagall

Read

The readings appointed for the Second Sunday of Lent are Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Psalm 22:22-30, Romans 4:13-25, and Mark 8:31-38.

In the Anglican Church of St Thomas, Crete, we are observing Easter on the Orthodox date – thus February 28 is for us the Third Sunday before Lent, and the readings are 2 Corinthians 4.5-12, Psalm 139.1-5,12-18, and Mark 2.23 – 3.6.

Share

Please join us by clicking this link or by entering the following into your Zoom application: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Passcode: 010209. This will be a Zoom-only service — we may start having Zoomed service in the church in the next few weeks, involving the leaders in the church with three or four congregants, and the rest of you joining in remotely on your computers.

The Order of Service for the Third Sunday Before Lent can be downloaded here:

Reflect

Here is a sermon for the Second Sunday of Lent, riffing off of the Genesis reading, by the Very Reverend Sam Candler, the Dean of Georgia and Rector of the Cathedral of St Philip, Atlanta.

This is a sermon for February 28, 2021 by Fr Leonard Doolan, the priest at the Anglican Church of St Paul, Athens. He uses the same gospel as we will use, Mark 2.23 – 3.6, but for the first reading he is using 1 Samuel 3.1-10.

Pray

Collect
Almighty God,
you show to those who are in error the light of your truth,
that they may return to the way of righteousness:
grant to all those who are admitted
into the fellowship of Christ’s religion,
that they may reject those things
that are contrary to their profession,
and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

Almighty God,
by the prayer and discipline of Lent
may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings,
and by following in his Way
come to share in his glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Biddings
I bid your prayers for the Church:

I bid your prayers for the leaders and people of the nations; especially

I bid your prayers for the sick and suffering and all who minister to their needs;

  • remembering the nearly twenty-one million active cases of the novel coronavirus, giving thanks that this number has begun to go down; but mourning with the families of the over 2.51 million who have died in the pandemic;
  • for the 1.3 million people in the UK with active cases of covid-19, the over 122,000 who have died of it there, and the 14,964 active cases here in Greece, and the families of the over 6410 dead here;
  • remembering those ill with other diseases, and those whose operations have been postponed;
  • all those having issues with mental health;
  • those suffering from addiction, and those in recovery;
  • those who have been affected severely by the economic effects of the pandemic, especially in food services and tourism;
  • and giving thanks for the efforts of researchers in finding vaccines, and for the rollout of vaccines across the world.

Intercession
We come before the Son of God, crucified and risen,
who eternally intercedes for us to the Father, saying:
turn our hearts again.

Son of God, you came into the world to save sinners:
All  turn our hearts again.

You became poor that we might become rich:
All  turn our hearts again.

You have taken on yourself all our sufferings:
All  turn our hearts again.

You loved the Church and gave yourself for her:
All  turn our hearts again.

For the joy which was set before you,
you endured the cross:
All  turn our hearts again.

King of the ages, you brought us the gift of life
and opened the way to unending joy:
All  turn our hearts again.

Sing

To Abraham and Sarah

1. To Abraham and Sarah
the call of God was clear:
‘Go forth and I will show you
a country rich and fair.
You need not fear the journey
for I have pledged my word:
that you shall be my people
and I will be your God.’

2. From Abraham and Sarah
arose a pilgrim race,
dependent for their journey
on God’s abundant grace;
and in their heart was written
by God this saving word:
that you shall be my people
and I will be your God.’

3 We of this generation
on whom God’s hand is laid,
can journey to the future
secure and unafraid
rejoicing in God’s goodness
and trusting in this word:
that you shall be my people
and I will be your God.’

In love you summon, in love I follow,
living today for your tomorrow,
Christ to release me, Christ to enfold me,
Christ to restrain me, Christ to uphold me.

1 At the name of Jesus
every knee shall bow,
every tongue confess him
King of glory now:
’tis the Father’s pleasure
we should call him Lord,
who from the beginning
was the mighty Word.

2 At his voice creation
sprang at once to sight,
all the angel faces,
all the hosts of light,
thrones and dominations,
stars upon their way,
all the heavenly orders,
in their great array.

3 Humbled for a season,
to receive a name
from the lips of sinners
unto whom he came,
faithfully he bore it
spotless to the last,
brought it back victorious,
when from death he passed:

4 Bore it up triumphant
with its human light,
through all ranks of creatures,
to the central height,
to the throne of Godhead,
to the Father’s breast;
filled it with the glory,
of that perfect rest.

5 Name him, Christians, name him,
with love strong as death,
but with awe and wonder
and with bated breath:
he is God the Saviour,
he is Christ the Lord,
ever to be worshipped,
trusted, and adored.

6 In your hearts enthrone him;
there let him subdue
all that is not holy,
all that is not true:
crown him as your Captain
in temptation’s hour;
let his will enfold you
in its light and power.

7 Surely, this Lord Jesus
shall return again,
with his Father’s glory,
with his angel train;
for all wreaths of empire
meet upon his brow,
and our hearts confess him
King of glory now.

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The Desperate One

A Sermon Preached on The Fourth Sunday Before Lent
February 21, 2021 at 11:00 am
for an Online Service with The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
.

The readings used were Isaiah 43.18-25, Psalm 41, 2 Corinthians 1.18-22, and Mark 2.1-11.

Have you ever been really desperate?

The word “desperate” is related to “despair,” and originally described the condition of being without hope. But it has shifted over time to mean being someone who is “extremely reckless or violent, ready to run any risk or go any length” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It also means “suffering extreme need or having a great desire for something.”

So, I think of a parent where the family is in in great poverty, and is willing to let someone else adopt or take care of the child. This does not happen so much anymore, but a hundred years ago many children were put into orphanages , not because they had no parents, but because their parents could no longer afford to feed them, or to get them out of urban slums. Between the 1830s and the 1930s, some 150,000 of them were shipped out as adolescents to Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, mainly to work on farms as indentured servants, and it didn’t always work out as well as in Anne of Green Gables. It must have been incredibly hard for so many of these parents to let go of their children – but they were desperate.

Desperation can lead to violence, as we know, sometimes for defensible reasons, and sometimes not. We recognise that one can use violence to defend oneself, and even kill another. However, sometimes the desperation has an unjust origin, such as a passionate relationship gone bad.

Talk to any alcoholic or addict and they will tell you that the compulsion for alcohol or their drug is overwhelming, leading them to desperate actions. They will steal money, ruin relationships, live in denial, hide booze or drugs all over the house, and allow themselves to have blackouts and overdoses. Some of them they will run any risk, including the risk of serious illness and death.

Or think of the acts of desperation of some people during the pandemic. The rushing to get back to England before the imposition of new restrictions. The huge desire to open stores and restaurants, despite the risks of infection. The people gathering despite restrictions, because they are desperate for human companionship, and to not be disturbed from their usual routine.

Desperate Friends

The gospel story today is one of desperation. There is a man who is paralyzed, but he has some great friends. They are so desperate to help him that, when they could not get through the crowd, they climbed up onto the house, broke through the roof, and lowered him down. They took a great risk. They did not seem too concerned with the possibility that the owner of the house would be upset, or that Jesus, who was staying there, might be. They were not thinking about the repercussions. They were desperate.

And it turned out okay. Jesus healed the man. He absolved him of his sins, and the man got up and walked, to the consternation of the scribes.

Why does Jesus do this? Mercy, yes, because healing and restoration is a sign of the kingdom of God. As we hear in Isaiah 35 – not today’s reading, but an earlier prophecy, we hear:

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
    the desert shall rejoice and blossom . . .
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. Isaiah 35.1, 5-6a

But I suspect that there is more to it than that.

A Desperate God

I want to suggest to you that in many ways God appears to us as desperate. In the person of Jesus Christ we seen the action of a desperate God, one who will go to any lengths to restore the relationship between the divine and humanity. The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin are descriptions of the kingdom of God, and the emotions conveyed by those stories desperation to the point of recklessness.

We read in Isaiah 43 this morning:

Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I, I am He
    who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
    and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43.18-19a, 25

The Source of all being sends the Eternal Word to take on flesh and dwell among us. He lives as one of us, and suffers as one of us, and staying obedient to a desperate hope, he serves God and others even to the cost of death, death on a cross.

God blots out our sins for his own sake. Having created us, the Divine desires us, even as we might desire another person. And when we reflect on it, the proper desire of humanity is the desire for the Divine, the desperate one in whom we find rest and peace.

Jesus Christ is Always Yes

Paul tell the church in Corinth, “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ . . . is always “Yes.”” All the promises of God are fulfilled in him. And God is desperate for you and me to receive those promises, and allow that yes to work in us. God wants us to be healed. God wants us to refresh ourselves. So what will be our response?

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Resources for Worship on the First Sunday of Lent

These are worship resources for The First Sunday of Lent, 2021. 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.

Creation Covenant from The Saint John’s Bible

Read

The readings appointed by Common Worship and the Revised Common Lectionary for the First Sunday of Lent are: Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25:1-9, 1 Peter 3:18-22, and Mark 1:9-15.

In the Anglican Church of St Thomas, Kefalas, Crete, we are observing February 21, 2021 as the Fourth Sunday Before Lent. The readings are: Isaiah 43.18-25, Psalm 41, 2 Corinthians 1.18-22, and Mark 2.1-11. The order of service for the Fourth Sunday Before Lent may be downloaded here:

Share

Please join us by clicking this link or by entering the following into your Zoom application: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Passcode: 010209. This will be a Zoom-only service — we may start having Zoomed service in the church in the next few weeks, involving the leaders in the church with three or four congregants, and the rest of you joining in remotely on your computers.

Reflect

This is my First Sunday of Lent sermon from last year, 2020. It makes more sense with the wilderness accounts in Matthew and Luke.

Pray

Collect
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
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)

Heavenly Father,
your Son battled with the powers of darkness,
and grew closer to you in the desert:
help us to use these days to grow in wisdom and prayer
that we may witness to your saving love
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

On the First Sunday of Lent you may wish to use The Litany or the form of intercessions below the biddings.

Biddings
I bid your prayers for the Church:

I bid your prayers for the leaders and people of the nations; especially

I bid your prayers for the sick and suffering and all who minister to their needs;

  • remembering the over twenty-two million active cases of the novel coronavirus, giving thanks that this number has begun to go down; but mourning with the families of the over 2.46 million who have died in the pandemic;
  • for the 1.64 million people in the UK with active cases of covid-19, the over 119,000 who have died of it there, and the 13,548 active cases here in Greece, and the families of the over 6249 dead here;
  • remembering those ill with other diseases, and those whose operations have been postponed;
  • all those having issues with mental health;
  • those suffering from addiction, and those in recovery;
  • those who have been affected severely by the economic effects of the pandemic, especially in food services and tourism;
  • and giving thanks for the efforts of researchers in finding vaccines, and for the rollout of vaccines across the world.

Intercession
With confidence and trust let us pray to the Father.

For the one holy catholic and apostolic Church …
let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

For the mission of the Church,
that in faithful witness it may preach the gospel
to the ends of the earth,
let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

For those preparing for baptism [and confirmation] …
and for their teachers and sponsors,
let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

For peace in the world …
that a spirit of respect and reconciliation may grow
among nations and peoples,
let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

For the poor, the persecuted, the sick, and all who suffer …
for refugees, prisoners, and all in danger;
that they may be relieved and protected,
let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

For those whom we have injured or offended,
let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

For grace to amend our lives and to further the reign of God,
let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

In communion with all those who have walked in the way of holiness …
let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

God our Father,
in your love and goodness
you have taught us to come close to you in penitence
with prayer, fasting and generosity;
accept our Lenten discipline,
and when we fall by our weakness,
raise us up by your unfailing mercy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sing

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Touch, Touch Me Lord Jesus

A Sermon Preached on The Fifth Sunday Before Lent
February 14, 2021 at 11:00 am
for an Online Service with The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
.

The readings used were 2 Kings 5.1-14, Psalm 30, 1 Corinthians 9.24-27, and Mark 1.40-45.

“Have you ever been so sick you couldn’t pray?”

You may or may not have heard of The Angelic Gospel Singers – after all, they had their biggest hit in 1949 in the United States with the song below: “Touch Me, Lord Jesus”. This kind of African-American gospel music was not well known outside the Black radio stations and churches in the United States – we certainly didn’t sing this at Evensong. And yet, among those who know this genre – the original gospel music before it was white-washed in the ’70s – these ladies were royalty. They are the roots of secular Rhythm and Blues and Motown and influencing everybody from Aretha Franklin to Elvis, the older incarnations of Fleetwood Mac, and even the Rolling Stones. In concert their performances were full of testimonies and stories, as well as some amazing singing. Have a listen:

I love the introduction here by Margaret Allison, playing the piano and talking away, and then slowly beginning to sing her testimony, and howling in a way that would make Little Richard proud. It slowly builds up and seems stream of consciousness, although I suspect she did this hundreds of times. She starts off with the question, “Have you ever been sick you couldn’t pray?” and leads into having a talk with herself and then with “Doctor Jesus” and asking him to go into the operating room with her, to “speak to the doctors and tell them what to do.” She had her challenges to learn to walk afterwards, to use her hands again, and play the piano. In the midst of her pain she found herself uttering the words of their 1949 hit:

1 Touch, touch me Lord Jesus
with thy hand of mercy.
Make each throbbing heartbeat
feel thy power divine.
Take my will forever.
I will doubt thee never.
Oh, cleanse, cleanse me dear Saviour.
Make me wholly thine.

2 Guide, guide me Jehovah
through this veil of sorrow.
I am saved forever
trusting in thy love.
Bail me through the current,
o’er the chilly Jordan
Lead, lead dear Master
to thy home above.

“If you choose, you can make me clean.”

In the gospel reading we hear of Jesus healing a leper. In countries with modern medicine available to all we do not see leprosy today, as there are antibiotics and other medicines available to deal with it, and yet decades after it disappeared from us we still seem to have a revulsion to it. Jesus stretches out his hand, daring to touch the unclean man and become unclean himself, and says, ““I do choose. Be made clean!” In a similar story we hear of Naaman, not a Jew but a Syrian general, being healed in the river of Jordan.

In another performance on YouTube you can hear Margaret Allison testify that God’s “still in the healing business. All you have to do is just call on him. Wait on him. He may not come when you want him to – but he’s always on time.” And I believe this. I have been to places where people have asked for divine intervention, and claim that they have received it – places such as Lourdes in southern France. Prayer works in conjunction with the marvels of modern medicine, but sometimes there are healings which cannot be explained by physicians.

Miraculous healing has been controversial in the history of much of post-Reformation Church of England. Under the influence of Jean Calvin and the Reformed tradition, most Anglican theologians from the 1550s on declared that the era of miracles had ended with the closing of the canon of scripture. There was no longer any need for miracles testifying to the power of Jesus, as the supposedly superstitious Catholics celebrated, as we had the holy scriptures, and that was testimony enough. This is part of what historians have called The Disenchantment of the World – the change from the 16th century on in which the supernatural is no longer seen, and God is no longer a part of any rational explanation. It may have paved the way for the rise of the hard sciences, but it also meant that sectors of the population felt more than able to dispense with God.

All of this started to change some 120 years ago, as African-American churches in the United States began to claim that the Holy Spirit was still in the healing business, just as the Catholics always claimed. Starting in the early 1900s even the establishment Church of England began participate in new organisations such as the Guild of Health and the Order of St Luke, and prayers and anointing for healing became normal parts of the liturgy. I have prayed over people for healing, and I have seen some people get those prayers answered. I have been prayed over, and I know God’s spirit moved in me.

But I look at the world and I see a world that needs healing.

  • We have this pandemic, which has long been predicted, and is a direct consequence of the globalization of the world, where a disease which in earlier eras would stay regionalized, or take years to make its way around the globe, but now took just weeks to do so last year. And yet, despite being predicted, in so many places our leadership failed to prepare, or were in denial. If it was an even worse disease just imagine how horrible things would be now.
  • We are suffering from the long-term exploitation of the resources of the globe, to the point where we are warming the world at a faster rate than at any time in the long, long history of humanity. Will we respond? Will our leaders lead us on this?
  • We are suffering from a lack of compassion. We spend vast amounts of money on things we do not need, but we have to have fundraisers for our health systems, stretched to their limits. We are indifferent to the most preventable diseases among the poor – neonatal tetanus, HIV/AID, measles, malaria, and tetanus.
  • We are in need of healing from loneliness. We are so good at being independent and autonomous that we have inadvertently cut ourselves from each other, and so we fail to reach out. It’s especially prevalent in Britain, where the joke is often told that you English need to explain to Americans that when someone says, “You must drop by sometime” they usually really mean, “Don’t ever visit me.” But in a time like now this becomes quite problematic, and people, especially those of us living alone, are starved for talk and for touch. There are definite physical effects, one study stating that “the heightened risk of mortality from loneliness equals that of smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic, and exceeds the health risks associated with obesity.” So we need to reach out, take the risk of communication.
  • We are in need of healing from the long-term consequences of centuries of racism, slavery, and extractive imperialism. It continues to warp our politics, our foreign policy, our empathy. I wrote about this in my soon to be resubmitted dissertation, and I see it in the politics of my home country of Canada.
  • And as individuals we need healing from the effects of sin – our hatred of others, the idols we have worshipped, our disregard of those in need, the times we have betrayed the trust given us, the occasions when we have broken the agreements solemnly contracted, the people and things we have coveted, stolen, and destroyed.

For all of these things, we healing.

But the forces that challenge such healing are strong.

  • They are the demons of “I am one person; I cannot do anything” and “This doesn’t concern me.”
  • They are the diseases of self-interest and the short term outlook.
  • But we have a Saviour who makes us part of his own body.
  • Jesus, by the power that raised him from the dead, empowers us to do more than we can ask or imagine.
  • As Jesus is concerned for all people, so we see all women, men, and children as our family.
  • We become as concerned for others as ourselves, and take the long view of the millennium.
  • As the hands of Jesus in the world we have the opportunity to say, “I do choose. Be made clean.”
  • We also stand in the place of the leper and say, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”

And each of us needs healing. It may be some complaint about our health. It may be a wound so great that it cannot be healed except by a miracle. It may not be healed in this life, not until until God breaks into history and transforms the world, and we hear the voice from the throne saying,

“Behold, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
4he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21.3-4

And then we will know that this prayer has been fulfilled:

Touch, touch me Lord Jesus
with thy hand of mercy.
Make each throbbing heartbeat
feel thy power divine.
Take my will forever.
I will doubt thee never.
Oh, cleanse, cleanse me dear Saviour.
Make me wholly thine.

The Anglican congregations in Greece, for 2021 only and because of the pandemic, are observing Easter on the same day as the Greek Orthodox, which is May 2. This affects all the Sundays from February to June, and it means we are adding four weeks of Sundays before Lent (and will lose four Sundays after Trinity, when we rejoin the Gregorian calendar).

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Resources for Worship on the Sunday Next Before Lent

These are worship resources for The Sunday Next Before Lent, 2021. 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.

Read

The Sunday Next Before Lent is known in the Anglican Church of Canada and in the United States’ The Episcopal Church as The Last Sunday after Epiphany. The theme and the readings are the same: the Transfiguration of Christ (known in Greece as The Metamorphosis). The readings appointed by Common Worship and the Revised Common Lectionary are: 2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, and Mark 9:2-9.

In the Anglican Church of St Thomas, Kefalas we are in a different liturgical zone, observing Easter with our Orthodox and Catholic brothers and sisters on May 2 instead of April 4. As a result, this coming Sunday for us will be The Fifth Sunday Before Lent, and not The Sunday Next Before Lent, and the reading will be 2 Kings 5.1-14, Psalm 30, 1 Corinthians 9.24-27, and Mark 1.40-45. The Order of Service for this Sunday may be downloaded here:

Share

Please join us by clicking this link or by entering the following into your Zoom application: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Passcode: 010209. This will be a Zoom-only service — we may start having Zoomed service in the church in the next few weeks, involving the leaders in the church with three or four congregants, and the rest of you joining in remotely on your computers.

Reflect

Eric Symes Abbott, Dead of Westminster Abbey from 1959 to 1974, first preached these Seven Meditations on the Transfiguration in the late 1940s.

Fr Leonard Doolan of St Paul’s Church in Athens has the following pre-recorded sermon:

A sermon for the Sunday Next Before Lent

Pray

Collect
Almighty Father,
whose Son was revealed in majesty
before he suffered death upon the cross:
give us grace to perceive his glory,
that we may be strengthened to suffer with him
and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

Holy God,
you know the disorder of our sinful lives:
set straight our crooked hearts,
and bend our wills to love your goodness
and your glory
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Intercession
That this and all our days
may be full of your praise:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That you will keep us this day without sin:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That we may walk before you
in the paths of righteousness and peace:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That you will bless your people
and lift them up for ever:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That you will guide and protect us by your Holy Spirit
and bring us with your saints to glory everlasting:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

Let us commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.

in communion with Thomas and with all your saints,
entrusting one another and all our life to Christ:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

Let us commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.

Biddings
I bid your prayers for the Church:

I bid your prayers for the leaders and people of the nations; especially

I bid your prayers for the sick and suffering and all who minister to their needs;

  • remembering the over twenty-five million active cases of the novel coronavirus, and mourning with the families of the over 2.38 million who have died in the pandemic;
  • for the 1.8 million people in the UK with active cases of covid-19, the over 115,000 who have died of it there, and the 12,400 active cases here in Greece, and the families of the over 6056 dead here;
  • remembering those ill with other diseases, and those whose operations have been postponed;
  • all those having issues with mental health;
  • those suffering from addiction, and those in recovery;
  • those who have been affected severely by the economic effects of the pandemic, especially in food services and tourism;
  • and giving thanks for the efforts of researchers in finding vaccines, and for the rollout of vaccines across the world.

Sing

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