Our Help in Ages Past: a Sermon Preached on the Last Sunday after Trinity (21st Sunday after Pentecost), October 25, 2020, the Year of the Great Pandemic

A Sermon preached on The Last Sunday after Trinity
at The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
on October 25, 2020 at 11:00 am EET

O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748), written in 1708, and published in The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719).
Psalm 90 from the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1977)

Angry?

Angry? Of course, you have been angry.

Are you angry now? Maybe you’re angry about your neighbour, or someone in your family. Angry about the coronavirus? Angry about the government’s response to it, whether here, in the USA or Canada, or in the UK? Wondering why we cannot all be like New Zealand? Maybe you’re angry about Brexit. Maybe you’re just angry about getting old.

Anger is a strong emotion, and sometimes we shrink back from it. At worst it comes across as a loss of temper, and has negative consequences. Certainly most of the things that I regret about the past is when I have lashed out in anger. We have all seen it in children, and it is all too common in adults – raw, inchoate, irrational. It makes us embarrassed, and perhaps terrified. Anger can end relationships, and it can lead to violence.

But then there is the kind of anger that is rooted in a deep sense of justice. It can be a slow burn, and a powerful motivator to positive action. So, maybe you’re filled with righteous anger against the corruption of government officials, or towards the racism that persists in our communities, or the arrogance of the wicked that cause wars, refugees, and famines.

And then, sometimes, maybe you’re just angry with God. A young person dies, or innocent people suffer, and we demand an accounting from the Creator.         

The Angriest Psalm in the Psalter

Well, it’s all right to be angry with God. We have the precedent in the psalms. In Psalm 89 we have a great example of that. It starts off very positively:

1    My song shall be always of the loving-kindness of the Lord:  ♦
with my mouth will I proclaim your faithfulness throughout all generations.
2    I will declare that your love is established for ever;  ♦
you have set your faithfulness as firm as the heavens.
3    For you said: ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one;  ♦
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
4    “‘Your seed will I establish for ever  ♦
and build up your throne for all generations.”’

It goes on like this for the next two thirds of the psalm, at great length, through to verse 37. Then, with verse 38 the tone changes dramatically.

But you have cast off and rejected your anointed; ♦
you have shown fierce anger against him.
39 You have broken the covenant with your servant, ♦
and have cast his crown to the dust.
40 You have broken down all his walls ♦
and laid his strongholds in ruins.
41 All who pass by despoil him, ♦
and he has become the scorn of his neighbours.

It continues like this all the way to verse 51, and psalm 49 sums it up:

49  Where, O Lord, is your steadfast love of old,  ♦
which you swore to David in your faithfulness?

(The final verse, 52, has a positive tone, but that’s because it was probably was added by the anonymous editors of the psalter in the 5th or 4th centuries BCE, as a doxology to conclude one of the five divisions of the 150 psalms, the third book.)

This is not a psalm attributed to David. Only 73 are attributed to David, and the rest are anonymous. The psalters we use in church, because they are for the purpose of worship, do not include the attributions or superscriptions. Not all psalms have them, but 116 of the 150 do. Most scholars believe they were added by editors after the psalms were collected. Usually they say something like what we find in Psalm 3: “A Psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.” Some are attributed to Asaph, or the sons of Korah, or Solomon. In other cases they have directions to the musical director about the tune (long lost). Some have descriptions, such Psalms 120-134, each of which is identified as “A Song of Ascents”.

The attribution here at the head of Psalm 89 is “A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite”, a maskil being a type of psalm. This is the only psalm attributed to Ethan. It clearly dates from the time of the fall of Jerusalem, when the Babylonians destroyed the Temple, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, extinguished the House of David, and took the leadership of Judea into exile. It speaks of the sense of betrayal, of a sacred covenant broken.

So how does one respond to this kind of anger?

Psalm 90

The editors of the Book of Psalms, whoever they were, chose to follow this angry psalm with one of the big guns. The superscription says that this is “A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.” Moses is, as our first reading today points out, unequaled, even by David: “Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform . . .”. Moses led the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. At Mount Sinai he received the Torah, God’s law and instruction, and handed it over to Israel. After the indictment of Psalm 89, only Moses will do as response.

The psalm is entirely in the second person, addressing God. It begins with an affirmation.

1 Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another.

or, as Isaac Watts puts it in his paraphrase,

Our God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.

In the second verse the psalm asserts God as creator. The next few verses affirm the fragility of humanity. Then the tone changes slightly, as the psalmist acknowledges our failures:

8 You have set our misdeeds before you and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

The anger and wrath of God are the consequences of our falling short of the glory of God and of failing to observe his instruction in either letter or spirit. It is not the petulant and arbitrary actions of some inscrutable deity. The God of Moses is a God of justice, and this is affirmed. The reality of sin and evil is not explained away, any more than in the Book of Job, but rather the majesty and righteousness of the Creator is proclaimed.

Then, with verse 12 we get a series of petitions:

teach us . . .
turn again . . .
have compassion . . .
satisfy us . . .
give us . . .
show . . .
let . . .
may . . .
prosper . . .

Psalm 90 makes the case that we have suffered. The psalmist asks for God’s compassion, loving-kindness, glory, and gracious favour, so that God’s servants and their children might rejoice, be glad, and do great things with their hands.

Isaac Watts, 2300 years later, turned this into a great Christian hymn, a paraphrase of Psalm 90, something which has sustained generations through war and adversity. It is why it has become a hymn for Remembrance Day.

The person of Moses, as described in Exodus through Deuteronomy, is someone who knew adversity, and yet he persisted. He received the promise of the land of Canaan, but he did not enter into it, but only through his children and the people of Israel would he enjoy the blessing. But he saw the future, the blessing to come, from the mountain of Nebo.

Jesus, the second Moses, summarises the Torah in our Gospel reading. Love God, love your neighbour. There is no opposition in these commandments, for to a great extent the first is fulfilled in the second; God’s justice demands that we be a servant, as Christ was a servant for us, in sacrificial love. As Christians, we find our refuge in Jesus.

So, yes, be angry. But do not just be angry, but turn and rest in the Lord. Find a refuge from suffering and pain in the person of Jesus Christ and God as manifested in the Holy Spirit.

Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come:
be thou our guard while troubles last,
and our eternal home.

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Resources for Worship on the Last Sunday after Trinity in the Year of the Great Pandemic 2020

These are resources for the Last Sunday after Trinity on Sunday, October 25, 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.

The view from Mount Nebo

A Note on Lectionaries
This coming Sunday is the Last Sunday after Trinity, according to the Lectionary of Common Worship in The Church of England. In The Episcopal Church in the USA and in the Anglican Church of Canada it is The Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost, and The Last Sunday after Pentecost is not marked until November 22. That said, the readings in both lectionaries are both the same – the names are just different. From November 1 (All Saints) to November 22 the Church of England observes the Sundays before Advent because, I guess, the season of Advent can go by really fast. The readings are more or less the same as in the Revised Common Lectionary, used by TEC and ACoC.

The Sunday is also known as Bible Sunday, and in congregations where the dedication date of the church building is not known, the Dedication Festival may be held. In both cases the readings are different.

Read

The readings appointed by the Church of England in Common Worship for this Sunday, and which we will use at St Thomas Kefalas, are Deuteronomy 34.1-12, Psalm 90.1-6, 13-17, and Matthew 22.34-46.

Share

It was a long-awaited pleasure to share the Lord’s Supper with over twenty of our members last Sunday, and God willing, we will continue to be able to meet in the Tabernacle of The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas. So please join us, if you can, at 11:00 am this Sunday, October 25, 2020.

If you cannot join in person you can participate on Zoom. Click this link, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209. My thanks to Frances Bryant-Scott for being the Zoom host last week.

Of course, you can also throw your own service together with the materials on this page – read the readings, pray the prayers, and sing with the hymns.

Reflect

As I prepare these resources I suspect that I will be preaching on the Psalm. Psalm 90 has the ascription “A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.” Psalm 90 is also the source of the great old hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”, so I will probably reflect on that connection. I will post the sermon after I have preached it. Last week’s sermon is here.

Pray

Collect
Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our 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)

Merciful God,
teach us to be faithful in change and uncertainty,
that trusting in your word and obeying your will
we may enter the unfailing joy of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Biddings
I bid your prayers for the Church:

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

  • Katerini Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece, and
  • Elizabeth, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her other realms, and also in her role as Governor of the Church of England;
  • In the European Union,
    • Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission;
    • Charles Michel, President of the European Council; and
    • Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy;
  • For negotiations around Brexit;
  • the peoples of Belarus and Thailand as they continue to demonstrate for democracy;
  • for peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia;
  • for the peoples of the United States as they enter the last two weeks before their elections;
  • for advocates of Indigenous rights and the adoption and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • prisoners and captives, especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China;
  • for a lessening of tensions between Turkey and Greece; and
  • for peace in Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, and between Palestinians and Israelis.

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

  • remembering the over 9.3 million active cases of the novel coronavirus, and mourning with the families of the over 1.1 million who have died in the pandemic;
  • for the estimated 336,500 people in the UK with covid-19, the 44,000 who have died of it there, and the 16,000 active cases here in Greece, and the families of the over 528 dead here;
  • and also remembering those ill with other diseases, and those whose operations have been postponed;
  • the over 79.5 million refugees and nearly 4 million stateless person, remembering especially the crucial situation of Greece.

Intercession
That this day may be holy, good and joyful:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That we may offer to you our worship and our work:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That we may strive for the well-being of all creation:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That in the pleasures and pains of life,
we may know the love of Christ and be thankful:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That we may be bound together by your Holy Spirit,
in communion with Thomas, our patron,
Mary of Magdala, who first proclaimed
the good news of the resurrection, and all your saints,
Mary, the Mother of God, 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.

Sing

Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return,
And come with singing unto Zion;
And everlasting joy shall be upon their head.
Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return,
And come with singing unto Zion;
And everlasting joy shall be upon their head.
They shall obtain gladness and joy;
And sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
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An Annotated Kenotic Theology Bibliography

I recently put together an annotated bibliography on kenotic theology for a course I did with the deacons of the Diocese of British Columbia, and I thought I would share it. These are books and article I used in my dissertation, Unsettling Theology.

Kenotic theology is about the self-emptying of God; as we are made in the image of God, human beings who are like this become ever more like the divine. Initially it was only about the Incarnation, drawing on the so-called Philippian Hymn in Philippians 2.5-11:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

It is also exemplified in passages such as Mark 10:42-45:

42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

If you want to explore kenotic theology, I recommend:

  • Law, David R., Kierkegaard’s Kenotic Christology (Oxford UK: Oxford University Press, 2013). Most of this book is about Kierkegaard, and unless you have a PhD in his philosophy you won’t be interested in the whole thing – but Law’s description of kenotic theology in the opening chapters is as good an introduction as you will find. 
  • Brown, David, Divine Humanity: Kenosis and the Construction of a Christian Theology (Waco TX: Baylor University Press, 2011). This is a great history of the development of kenotic theology in the 19th century and early 20th century. 
  • Polkinghorne, John, editor, The Work of Love: Creation as Kenosis (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2001). This collection of essays gives you an idea of where the discussion was about twenty years ago.
  • Wright, N. T., “ἁρπαγμὸς and the Meaning of Philippians 2: 5-11”, Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Vol. 37, Pt. 2, October 1986, pp. 321-352. Tom Wright can be a brilliant New Testament scholar, and this is one of his crucial essays that gets deep into the meaning of one word in Philippians 2.5-11, the key text of kenotic theology. 
  • Evans, C. Stephen, editor, Exploring Kenotic Christology: The Self-Emptying of God (Oxford UK: Oxford University Press & Vancouver BC: Regent College Publishing, 2006). Arguably this is a better set of essays than in Polkinghorne’s book, and offers a better survey. 
  • Bulgakov, Segius The Lamb of God (originally published as Агнец Божий in 1933), translated by Boris Jakem (Grand Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008). Bulgakov picked up where the early 20th century kenoticists left off, and framed kenotic theology in terms that are acceptable in Orthodox theology. It is a long book but a rewarding one to read. The key idea is that the self-emptying of God by the Second Person in the Incarnation is, in fact, a charactersitic shared by all three persons of the Trinity, and is manifested in all their relations with Creation. 
  • Fairweather, Eugene R., “Appended Note: ‘The “Kenotic” Christology’” in F. W. Beare, A Commentary on The Epistle to the Philippians (London UK: Adam and Charles Black, 1959), pp. 159-174. This is an ancient piece by one of my old professors, and Fairweather criticizes the state of kenotic theology as it had stood, more or less moribund since 1925. He had obviously not read Bulgakov, as he was pretty much unknown in the English speaking world until Rowan Williams translated some of his writings in 1999.
  • von Balthasar, Hans Urs, Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter translated by Aidan Nichols (San Francisco CA: Ignatius Press, 1990). Balthasar was a major theologian of the 20th century, and in this very readable book he reflects on the Triduum and kenosis. Notably, he reflects on the “descent to hell” in kenotic terms. The book draws on Bulgakov but casts it in a modern Catholic theology. Really useful for preaching in Holy Week.
  • ——————, Theo-Drama, Theological Dramatic History: Volume IV: The Action, translated by Graham Harrison (San Francisco CA: Ignatius Press, 1994).If you liked Mysterium Paschale you may want to read Balthasar’s later reflections in this text, part of his massive seventeen-volume systematic theology he wrote between 1961 and 1987 (I think he was trying to be the Catholic Karl Barth). 
  • Coakley, Sarah, “Kenōsis and Subversion: On the Repression of “Vulnerability” in Christian Feminist Writing” in Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy, and Gender (Oxford UK: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 2002), pp. 3-39. Sarah Coakley wrote three articles on kenosis from her analytical theological and feminist perspective, and this is the first, in which she discerns issues in late 20th century kenotic theology and argues for contemplative, wordless prayer as a way to subvert patriarchy. Coakley is never an easy read, just to warn you.
  • ——————, “Kenosis: Theological Meanings and Gender Connotations” in  The Work of Love: Creation as Kenosis ed. by John Polkinghorne (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2001), pp. 192-210. This is her second article, where she criticises certain male authors in the same volume for unconscious gender-stereotyping in kenotic theology. 
    ——————, “Does Kenosis Rest on a Mistake? Three Kenotic Models in Patristic Exegesis” in Exploring Kenotic Christology: The Self-Emptying of God edited by C. Stephen Evan (Oxford UK: Oxford University Press & Vancouver BC: Regent College Publishing, 2006), pp. 246-264. Coakley burrows into patristic theology (particularly the Cappadociatin fathers) to argue that recent scholars have misunderstood basic aspects of kenotic theology.  
  • Kilby, Karen,  “The Seductions of Kenosis”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUSujhwdMVQ, accessed January 3, 2019. Kilby is suspicious of the way in which kenotic theology can be used to valourize suffering, and in this lecture she expresses her reservations.
  • McFague, Sallie, Blessed are the Consumers: Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint (Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press, 2013). The late Sallie McFague published this, and I think it may be her last work. In it she considers the writings and lives of three “saints”, namely: John Woolman (1720-1772), a Pennsylvania Quaker; Dorothy Day (1897-1980), a lay Catholic social worker; and Simone Weil (1909-1943). What is important for McFague is that each of these people not only espoused kenotic ideals, but they lived them, too, and did so in engagement with the world. Woolman advocated for abolition, Day for workers’ rights and the needs of the poor; and Weil also for workers, Spanish Republicans, and victims of the Nazi occupation of France. Each of them were outsiders.
  • Carroll, Anthony J., Marthe Kerkwijk, Michael Kirwan, and James Sweeney, editors, Towards a Kenotic Vision of Authority in the Catholic Church, edited by (as Western Philosophical Studies, VIII Christian Philosophical Studies, VIII) (Washington DC: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2015). These are a fascinating set of papers from a conference held at Heythrop College, University of London.
  • Martin, Ralph P. & Brian J. Dodd, eds., Where Christology Began: Essays on Philippians 2 (Louisville KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998). A collection of essays on Philippians 2, now getting a bit dated.
  • Moltmann, Jürgen, The Crucified God The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology translated by R. A. Wilson and John Bowden (London UK: SCM Press, 1974). This is considered a classic in kenotic theology by many. Moltmann follows in the tradition of the Christian left-Hegelians, and so allows for the idea that God is changed by interaction with humanity, a thesis which is unacceptable to many who wish to adhere to more traditional Christology and Trinitarian theologies, although it may appeal to folks interested in Process Theology. I was warned off of Moltmann by my dissertation supervisor (!). 
Posted in Unsettling Theology | Leave a comment

The Two Lukes

A Sermon preached on
the Feast of St Luke, Physician and Evangelist
at The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
on October 18, 2020 11:00 am

St Paul writes a letter, perhaps with the help of Luke.

Do your best to come to me soon, for Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. 2 Timothy 4.9-11a

The lectionary of Common Worship gives one the option to mark this Sunday as the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity (Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church), or as the Feast of St Luke. I have decided to go with the Feast.

Now, the collect today, as well as other prayers provided in the Church of England, all suggest that there was someone named Luke, who some 1980 years ago was a companion of Paul, was a doctor, and also wrote The Gospel according to Luke and The Acts of the Apostles. Thus, our gospel reading is Jesus’s instructions to his disciples about preaching the good news, and our reading from Isaiah and the Psalm deal with healing. So far so straightforward, right?

Well, no. Because, in all probability, there were two Lukes.

One is the person referred to in the quotation above. He is a companion of Paul. He is also mentioned as being with Paul in the Letter to Philemon, and in Colossians he is referred to as “Luke, the beloved physician.” That is it. Later works add details, but they are viewed with great skepticism. For example the Orthodox Church believes that Luke was the first iconographer, doing a portrait of Mary, the Mother of God, from life. However, the first mention of this dates from the 8th century, in the midst of the iconoclastic controversy.

St Luke “writes” an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Then there is the author of the Third Gospel, and the Acts of the Apostles. What is interesting here is that nowhere in the text of the gospel does the author identify himself – the author is anonymous. Likewise, nowhere in Acts does the author identify himself. The same is true of the other three gospels as well. How did they get the attributions to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, then?

Well, the four gospels came to circulate together relatively soon after they were written – perhaps by 100 CE. By that time no one was alive who knew Jesus in the flesh, and it was felt that if these anonymous works were ascribed to some of the pioneers of the faith then their authority would be accepted. So, each was ascribed to a member of the Twelve – Matthew and Luke – or companions of the apostles – Mark and Luke. Luke carried the authority of Paul, and Mark the authority of Peter. It was a pious tradition, incorporated early on in the manuscripts, and having these titles made it convenient to keep the four separate. Modern scholarship, however, doubts that the same person who is referred to in Philemon, Second Timothy, and Colossians, is necessarily the same person who produced the two volume work of Luke and Acts. However, because it gets inconvenient and strange to say “the anonymous author of the Gospel according to Luke and Acts of the Apostles” most scholars just call the author “Luke”.

Of course, none of this is a matter of salvation; our standing before God and the strength of our faith does not depend on whether tradition is correct and there was only one person, or whether, as modern scholarship suggests, there were really two. But it is perhaps instructive. To the question, “Where does this leave us?” we might answer “Today we can honour two very different types of people in the early church.”

One is personified by Luke, the beloved physician, about whom we know next to nothing. Luke stands alongside all the other early followers of Christ about whom we know very little. Behind them are the anonymous Christians, who carried the gospel from Jerusalem to Damascus, and from Antioch to Rome. We do not know who these people were. I suspect many of them were otherwise perfectly ordinary people who were attracted to the message of Jesus Christ and could not help but share it with others by word and by deed as they moved around the Roman Empire.

The other type of person we might honor are those who have transformed the world by their achievements. In some case we know their names: Mary of Magdala, Peter, Paul, and John of Patmos. Sometimes they are literally anonymous, but we know them very well through their written works . They speak loud and clear: the anonymous authors of the gospels, the anonymous author who wrote the three letters ascribed to John, the anonymous author of the Letter to the Hebrews, and so forth. The author of the Third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles wrote over one-quarter of the New Testament. In the first paragraph the author we call for convenience “Luke” writes,

Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.

Theophilus here is “God-lover” – probably not a person, but the reader, you and me, anyone who hears the gospel being read. The author says he is setting things in order – a theological and evangelical order, mainly, not a history as we would understand it.

  • So in the gospel we follow Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, and in the Acts we follow the apostles from Jerusalem through Samaria and Galilee, Syria, Anatolia, and Greece, and then on to Rome, portraying the explosive growth of the church.
  • The author refers to the action of the Holy Spirit more than any other evangelist, and has given us the hymns of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, as well as the Benedictus.
  • In this gospel only do we find the story of the shepherds of Bethlehem, the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, and the story of the Good Thief at the cross – and in these stories and elsewhere the author shows a concern from the outsider, the abandoned, and the repentant sinner.
  • Similarly, only Luke has the story of the Walk to Emmaus, and he is the only one to describe  the ascension, and he does so twice, at the end of the gospel and at the beginning of Acts.
  • In Acts he fleshes out our understanding of who Peter and Paul were, although sometimes smooths out the rough edges of conflict that is apparent in the Letters of Paul.

These two texts, now part of our sacred scripture, shows us who Jesus is, and what the body of Christ was like. It is an incredible achievement. 

St Luke writing the Third Gospel

We can see ourselves in these two Lukes, because the church has needed both. While the church conflates them, let’s keep them apart for just a little bit more.

On the one hand we need these Christians who do amazing things for God, so that we stand in awe of their achievements. I think today of such folks as Desmond Tutu and C.S. Lewis, Mother Teresa and John XXIII, Martin Luther King and Oscar Romero, and Aimee Semple McPherson and Simone Weil.

But most of us are not like that. Most of us are footnotes to history. I am reminded of the line that the poet Malcom Guite repeated from a dying friend of his: “I thought my life was an epic, but it turns out to have been a sonnet.” Nevertheless, although most of us may be short sonnets – or haikus, or limericks, or epigrams – we can be faithful. As is written in Second Timothy, “Only Luke is with me.” That is enough.

So, on this day in which we celebrate St Luke, who may have been one person or two, let us also celebrate ourselves, as the body of Christ, and how we show forth Jesus in our lives in word and deed.

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Resources for Worship on the Feast of St Luke 2020

These are resources for a celebration of the Feast of St Luke on Sunday, October 18, 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.

Read

The readings appointed by the Church of England in Common Worship for this feast-day are Isaiah 35.3-6, Psalm 147.1-7, 2 Timothy 4.5-17, and Luke 10.1-9. Folks in North America should note that these are different from the ones assigned in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Share

While many restrictions are still in place, we have stepped down to Level One in the Chania Prefecture, which means that it is possible for us to gather as church this coming Sunday. So, please join us in person, if possible, at 11:00 am on October 18 in the Tabernacle at the Anglican Church of St Thomas in Kefalas. The service will be one of Holy Communion.

If you cannot join in person you can participate on Zoom. Click this link, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209. My thanks to Frances Bryant-Scott for being the Zoom host last week.

Of course, you can also throw your own service together with the materials on this page – read the readings, pray the prayers, and sing with the hymns.

Reflect

I will post my sermon on Luke soon after the service on Sunday. In the meantime, here is a sermon by the Cistercian monk and priest, Justin Sheehan.

Pray

Collect
Almighty God, you called Luke the physician,
whose praise is in the gospel,
to be an evangelist and physician of the soul:
by the grace of the Spirit
and through the wholesome medicine of the gospel,
give your Church the same love and power 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.

Biddings
I bid your prayers for the Church:

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

  • Katerini Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece, and
  • Elizabeth, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her other realms, and also in her role as Governor of the Church of England;
  • In the European Union,
    • Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission;
    • Charles Michel, President of the European Council; and
    • Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy;
  • For negotiations around Brexit;
  • the peoples of Belarus as they continue to demonstrate for democracy;
  • for peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia;
  • for the peoples of the United States as they enter the last three weeks before their elections;
  • for advocates of Indigenous rights and the adoption and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • prisoners and captives, especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China;
  • for a lessening of tensions between Turkey and Greece; and
  • for peace in Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, and between Palestinians and Israelis.

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

Intercession: A Litany of Healing
God the Father, your will for all people is health and salvation.
All   We praise and bless you, Lord.

God the Son, you came that we might have life,
and might have it more abundantly.
All   We praise and bless you, Lord.

God the Holy Spirit, you make our bodies the temple of your presence.
All   We praise and bless you, Lord.

Holy Trinity, one God, in you we live and move and have our being.
All   We praise and bless you, Lord.

Lord, grant your healing grace to all who are sick, injured or disabled,
that they may be made whole.
All   Hear us, Lord of life.

Grant to all who are lonely, anxious or depressed
a knowledge of your will and an awareness of your presence.
All   Hear us, Lord of life.

Grant to all who minister to those who are suffering
wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience.
All   Hear us, Lord of life.

Mend broken relationships, and restore to those in distress
soundness of mind and serenity of spirit.
All   Hear us, Lord of life.

Sustain and support those who seek your guidance
and lift up all who are brought low by the trials of this life.
All   Hear us, Lord of life.

Grant to the dying peace and a holy death,
and uphold by the grace and consolation of your Holy Spirit those who are bereaved.
All   Hear us, Lord of life.

Restore to wholeness whatever is broken by human sin,
in our lives, in our nation, and in the world.
All   Hear us, Lord of life.

You are the Lord who does mighty wonders.
All   You have declared your power among the peoples.

With you, Lord, is the well of life
All   and in your light do we see light.

Hear us, Lord of life:
All   heal us, and make us whole.

Let us pray. A period of silence follows.

O Lord our God, accept the fervent prayers of your people;
in the multitude of your mercies
look with compassion upon us and all who turn to you for help;
for you are gracious, O lover of souls,
and to you we give glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
All   Amen.

Sing

Words by Timothy Dudley-Smith, to the tune Aurelia by S. S. Wesley
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Resources for Worship on Harvest Thanksgiving in the Year of the Great Pandemic 2020

These are resources for a celebraton of Harvest Thanksgiving on Sunday, October 11, 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.

Harvest at Eragny (1901) by Camille Pissarro

Read

The readings appointed by Common Worship are a little different from the Revised Common Lectionary, and provide some options. In the Anglican Church of St Thomas, Kefalas we will use:

Deuteronomy 28.1-14
Psalm 65
2 Corinthians 9.6-15
Luke 12.16-30

Share

The pandemic restrictions are continuing in the Prefecture of Chania (which includes Apokoronas and Kefalas). This means that gatherings of more than nine (9) persons are still forbidden. As we have since the last Sunday in August, we will not meet in person.

BUT, you can join us via Zoom!

Click this link, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209. My thanks to the Reverend Julia Bradshaw, our deacon and curate, for leading the services over the past two Sundays, and to Jan Lovell for being the Zoom host.

The format of the service can be downloaded:

If you do not want to join us via Zoom, then you can simply do it all yourself – read the lessons and pray the prayers below, and intersperse it all by clicking on the links to the hymns.

Reflect

I have not been very good at posting my recent sermons, but let’s see if I do any better now that I have had a vacation.

In the meantime, click here for a sermon by St Augustine on the theme of harvest and mission.

Pray

Collect: Prayer of the Day
Eternal God, you crown the year with your goodness
and you give us the fruits of the earth in their season:
grant that we may use them to your glory,
for the relief of those in need and for our own well-being;
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.

Thanksgivings
Let us give thanks to God,the God of all peoples of the earth.

For the colour and forms of your creation
and our place within it,
we bring our thanks, good Lord:
your mercy endures for ever.

For our daily food,
and for those whose work and skill
bring your good gifts to us,
we bring our thanks, good Lord:
your mercy endures for ever.

For the gifts and graces inspired in human minds and hearts;
for insight and imagination,
for the skills of research
which bring healing and fulfilment to the lives of many;
we bring our thanks, good Lord:
your mercy endures for ever.

For the light and shades of the changing seasons,
and their variety and dependability;
for new life and growth out of barrenness and decay;
we bring our thanks, good Lord:
your mercy endures for ever.

For new hope and strength in our communities,
especially in your Church and among all you call to serve you,
we bring our thanks, good Lord;
your mercy endures for ever.

For all in whose lives we see
goodness, kindness, gentleness, patience and humility,
and all the fruit of the Spirit,
we bring our thanks, good Lord:
your mercy endures for ever.

For the life we have been given,
and for all those whom you have given us to share it,
we bring our thanks, good Lord:
your mercy endures for ever.

Biddings
I bid your prayers for the leaders of the nations; especially

  • Katerini Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece, and
  • Elizabeth, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her other realms, and also in her role as Governor of the Church of England;
  • In the European Union,
    • Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission;
    • Charles Michel, President of the European Council; and
    • Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy;
  • For negotiations around Brexit;
  • the peoples of Belarus as they continue to demonstrate for democracy;
  • for the peoples of the United States as they enter the last weeks before their elections;
  • for advocates of Indigenous rights and the adoption and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • prisoners and captives, especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China;
  • for a lessening of tensions between Turkey and Greece; and
  • for peace in Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, and between Palestinians and Israelis.

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

I bid your prayers for the Church:

Intercessions
Let us offer our prayers to God for the life of the world
and for all God’s people in their daily life and work.

God, the beginning and end of all things,
in your providence and care
you watch unceasingly over all creation;
we offer our prayers
that in us and in all your people your will may be done,
according to your wise and loving purpose in Christ our Lord.
Lord of all life: hear our prayer.

We pray for all through whom we receive sustenance and life;
for farmers and agricultural workers,
for packers, distributors and company boards;
as you have so ordered our life that we depend upon each other,
enable us by your grace to seek the well-being of others before our own.
Lord of all creation: hear our prayer

We pray for all engaged in research to safeguard crops against disease,
and to produce abundant life among those who hunger
and whose lives are at risk.
Prosper the work of their hands
and the searching of their minds,
that their labour may be for the welfare of all.
Lord of all wisdom: hear our prayer.

We pray for governments and aid agencies,
and those areas of the world where there is disaster, drought
and starvation.
By the grace of your Spirit, touch our hearts
and the hearts of all who live in comfortable plenty,
and make us wise stewards of your gifts.
Lord of all justice: hear our prayer.

We pray for those who are ill,
remembering those in hospital and nursing homes
and all who are known to us.
We pray for all who care for them.
Give skill and understanding
to all who work for their well-being.
Lord of all compassion: hear our prayer.

We remember those who have died,
whom we entrust to your eternal love
in the hope of resurrection to new life.
Lord of all peace: hear our prayer.

We offer ourselves to your service,
asking that by the Spirit at work in us
others may receive a rich harvest of love and joy and peace.
Lord of all faithfulness: hear our prayer.

God of grace,
as you are ever at work in your creation,
so fulfil your wise and loving purpose in us
and in all for whom we pray,
that with them and in all that you have made,
your glory may be revealed
and the whole earth give praise to you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sing

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Resources for Worship on the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

These are resources for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity (Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost) on Sunday, September 20, 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.

The Fall of Manna, German ca. 1470
oil on cradled pine panel, Detroit Institute of the Arts

Read

I was planning on having a Blessing of the Animals on this day, transferring readings from the Feast of St Francis, but it looks like restrictions will remain in place in the Chania Prefecture, and we will still be on Zoom. Ah, well. You can find a copy of the service we will be using here:

So, let us use some of the Readings appointed for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity (known as the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost outside of the Church of England). These are: Exodus 16:2-15, Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45, Philippians 1:21-30, and Matthew 20:1-16. We will omit the passage from Philippians.

Share

It looks as thogh the restrictions are continuing in the Prefecture of Chania (which includes Apokoronas and Kefalas). This means that gatherings of more than nine (9) persons are still forbidden. As we have for the past tthree Sundays, we will not be meeting in person.

BUT, you can join us via Zoom!

Click this link, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209. My thanks to Frances Bryant-Scott for being the Zoom host last Sunday. It is possible that we will be having electrical storms during the morning, in which case I may try to reconvene later.

If you do not want to join us via Zoom, then you can simply do it all yourself – read the lessons and pray the prayers below, and intersperse it all by clicking on the links to the hymns.

Reflect

I will do my best to post the sermon soon after the service (I know, I haven’t posted last week’s yet . . .).

In the meantime, you could always read this sermon by John Donne (Sermon LXVI, Preached at Old St Paul’s in London, January 29, 1625 (1625/1626) which he begins by stating, “The psalms are the manna of the church.”

Pray

Collect
God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit
upon your Church in the burning fire of your love:
grant that your people may be fervent
in the fellowship of the gospel
that, always abiding in you,
they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service;
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)

Lord God,
defend your Church from all false teaching
and give to your people knowledge of your truth,
that we may enjoy eternal life
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Intercessions
That this day may be holy, good and joyful:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That we may offer to you our worship and our work:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That we may strive for the well-being of all creation:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That in the pleasures and pains of life,
we may know the love of Christ and be thankful:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That we may be bound together by your Holy Spirit,
in communion with Thomas our patron and all the disciples,
with Patrick and Brigid of Ireland,
Bede and Hilda of England,
David and Adwen of Wales,
Ninian and Margaret of Scotland,
and with Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of God, and 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.

I bed your prayers for the Church:

  • for Robert Innes & David Hamid, our bishops;
  • for Justin Welby our archbishop, Stephen Cottrell the Archbishop of York, and the General Synod of the Church of England;
  • for the churches and peoples of Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, and Peru (World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle);
  • for the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and the leadership of The Most Revd Justin Badi Arama, Bishop of Juba and Archbishop of the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan (Anglican Cycle of Prayer); and
  • (from the Prayer Diary of the Diocese in Europe) give thanks for:
    • the Russian Orthodox Church,
    • for Malcolm Rogers as The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Apokrisiarios to the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russ.
    • and remember the Persecuted Church worldwide and the role of Open Doors in providing information about this.

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

  • Katerini Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece, and
  • Elizabeth, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her other realms, and also in her role as Governor of the Church of England;
  • In the European Union,
    • Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission;
    • Charles Michel, President of the European Council; and
    • Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy;
  • the peoples of Belarus as they demonstrate for democracy;
  • for the people across the world marching for fair treatment from security forces and police;
  • for the peoples of the United States as they enter the last couple of months before their elections;
  • for advocates of Indigenous rights and the adoption and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • prisoners and captives, especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China;
  • and the people of Lebanon, as they recover from the massive explosion in Beirut and the collapse of the government in that country;
  • for a lessening of tensions between Turkey and Greece; and
  • for peace in Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and between Palestinians and Israelis.

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

Sing

This great hymn picks up on a few themes in the reading from Exodus.

This hymn was written by Suzanne Toolan, a Roman Catholic Sister of Mercy, for an event in the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1964. This version has a Spanish verse in the middle.

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Resources for Worship on the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

These are resources for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity (Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost) on Sunday, September 13, 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.

Read

The readings from scripture appointed for this coming Sunday are: Exodus 14:19-31, Romans 14:1-12, and Matthew 18:21-35. After the first reading from Exodus the responsorial psalm is Psalm 114, or one can read a portion of the Song of Moses and Miriam, from Exodus 15.1b–3,6,10,13,17 (or, alternatively Exodus 15:1b-11,20-21).

At St Thomas’s we will use the first reading fro Exodus, the Song of Moses and Miriam, and the gospel from Matthew 18.

Share

If you are in Crete, you will already know that in the Prefecture of Chania (which includes Apokoronas and Kefalas), gatherings of more than nine (9) persons are still forbidden. As we have for the past two Sundays, we will not be meeting in person.

BUT, you can join us via Zoom!

Click this link, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209. My thanks to Frances Bryant-Scott for being the Zoom host last Sunday.

If you do not want to join us via Zoom, then you can simply do it all yourself – read the lessons and pray the prayers below, and intersperse it all by clicking on the links to the hymns.

Reflect

I will do my best to post the sermon promptly after I preach it on Sunday

Fr Leonard Doolan of St Paul’s Athens sent me a prerecorded sermon for tomorrow, but I have been unable to upload it; I will see what I can do in future weeks.

Pray

Collect
Almighty God,
whose only Son has opened for us
a new and living way into your presence:
give us pure hearts and steadfast wills
to worship you in spirit and in truth;
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)

Merciful God,
your Son came to save us
and bore our sins on the cross:
may we trust in your mercy
and know your love,
rejoicing in the righteousness
that is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Intercessions
For the unity of the Church in witness and proclamation of the Gospel;

  • for Robert Innes & David Hamid, our bishops;
  • for Justin Welby our archbishop, Stephen Cottrell the Archbishop of York, and the General Synod of the Church of England;
  • for the churches and peoples of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay (World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle);
  • for the Anglican Church of South America and The Most Revd Gregory James Venables, Presiding Bishop & Bishop of Argentina (Anglican Cycle of Prayer); and
  • (from the Prayer Diary of the Diocese in Europe) give thanks for:
    • Pray for the Serbian Orthodox Church, and for Robin Fox as Archbishop of Canterbury’s Apokrisiarios to the Patriarch of Serbia.
    • Pray for the autocephalous Orthodox churches of Eastern Europe and the Baltic.
    • Pray for Ben Gordon-Taylor (Liturgy Officer);
    • John Newsome (Spirituality Advisor) and our team of Spiritual Directors; and for John also in his role as Area Dean;

let us pray to the Lord: Lord, hear our prayer.

For the peace and stability of all peoples
and for the leaders of the nations; especially for

  • Katerini Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece, and
  • Elizabeth, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her other realms, and also in her role as Governor of the Church of England;
  • In the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission;
    • Charles Michel, President of the European Council; and
    • Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy;
  • the peoples of Belarus and Hong Kong, as they demonstrate for democracy; for the people across the world marching for fair treatment from security forces and police;
  • for advocates of Indigenous rights and the adoption and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • prisoners and captives, especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China;
  • and the people of Lebanon, as they recover from the massive explosion in Beirut and the collapse of the government in that country;

let us pray to the Lord: Lord, hear our prayer.

For places of work, education and leisure;
remembering especially students in Greece as they return to school;
those who travel by land, air, or water,
and for all medical staff testing and tracing tourists;
for those in quarantine;
let us pray to the Lord: Lord, hear our prayer.

For a blessing on our homes;
for our relations and friends and all whom we love;
let us pray to the Lord: Lord, hear our prayer.

For the sick and suffering and all who minister to their needs;

let us pray to the Lord: Lord, hear our prayer.

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

Sing

This song goes with our reading from Exodus.

An alleluia from the Iona Community for use before the gospel reading.

And, now, a Bluegrass Gospel version of a song from India.

A string quartet plays Ben Johnston’s “String Quartet #4 (Amazing Grace)” – microtonals ahead!

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What is God’s Will in the Time of a Pandemic?

A sermon preached on
The Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity (The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost)
in an online Zoom service sponsored by
The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete,
September 6, 2020 11:00 am

The readings appointed for this Sunday are Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 149, and Matthew 18:15-20.

When I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt..” Exodus 12:1
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. Matthew 18:20

God, Rulers, and Plagues

Why does God kill all the firstborn of the Egyptians? Surely they have no part in the enslavement of the Israelites?  

Two principles need to be kept in mind. First, in the Hebrew scriptures God is usually seen as the one who causes all things. If good things happen, it is because of God. If bad things happen, it is because of God. This is especially true in the so-called Deuteronomic history, but also in the Torah. And yet, even though God seems to be the cause of all things, human beings seem to have free will; people have the choice to follow God’s ways. This contradiction is never really worked out logically, but is a tension throughout scripture. Thus, when the ten plagues come upon Egypt, it is not merely by chance, but the action of God.

As well, in the Old Testament the people and a king are one. If the ruler does evil, the people suffer. If the monarch does good, the people benefit. This may seem alien to our sense of understanding, but, again, it is what we find in most of the Tanach.

These are not so much explanations but descriptions. In the OT story this morning the Egyptian people suffer because of the hardness of heart of Pharaoh, who will not release the Israelites. God causes Pharaoh to be cruel, but he would have chosen to be that way anyway. Pharaoh on one side opposes God and Moses and Aaron on the other, and so the people of Egypt all suffer. Indeed, were it not for the sign of the Passover, the blood placed upon the doorway, even the Israelites, slaves that they were, would suffer. This may not be fair, but it seems to be the way of the world.

Today people across the world are in the midst of a plague. In some places, such as here in Greece, the leadership has been very effective, and the numbers of infections and deaths have been very low. In other places the leadership has not been so effective. There the numbers of infections have been high and the number of deaths comparatively high – thirty times more so than here. Is that fair? No, not at all. But it is as true for us as it was for the Egyptians.

God, Democracies, and the Pandemic

So what message is God trying to tell the leaders of the present? In Exodus the authors, writing many centuries after the events they were describing, believed that in God’s eyes that the enslavement of Israel in Egypt was wrong. What is God calling us to in this worldwide pandemic?

For today’s world perhaps we can take several lessons.

  • First, perhaps an economic one. We are a globalized economy and people travel far and wide very quickly. Along with that globalization comes the possibility of some bad things – perhaps in the past it was radicalized religious terrorists, but today it is a simple virus. What are the most effective ways to ensure health and safety?
  • Perhaps, when looking at the decline in our economies, we need to build in greater resiliency. In our efforts at just-in-time manufacturing, in cost-cutting and share-holder value, we have created a fragile system. Do we need to build something more robust?
  • Or, when we look at the internet and social media, we see a world that is increasingly fractured, inside the so-called echo chambers, and where facts are ignored and conspiracy theories abound. How do we raise citizens so that they have critical thinking? The failure to regulate what is called surveillance capitalism has led to polarization. How do we get people to listen to each other more carefully?
  • Finally, times of stress usually affect the poor, the sick, and the marginalized more so than others. Not surprisingly, just as the ten plagues of Egypt were coincident with the call to free the Israelites, so the current pandemic has come with a new civil rights movement. How do we ensure that the most vulnerable in our society receive justice and empowerment?

Of course, all of this goes with conflict. On the local level, in the gospel reading, Jesus gives us a way to go forward to resolve conflict. One starts small – one to one, then two to one, and so forth. One builds up the community in an attempt to point out someone’s fault. If it doesn’t work we are required to bring in a third person, and in working with that other person we move towards a resolution. Sometimes that person will help us see what we contributed to the problem. Ideally one keeps the level of tension low, but that is not always possible.

As Christians we rely on each other. We believe that it is community that we find truth, the word of God speaking to us. Let us listen to one another in love and care.

On the larger level, we live in an unusual time, where we can always vote out the leaders who do not rule well. I am not so cynical that I believe it makes no difference who is in charge. I am not so naïve to believe that simply calling oneself a Christian means that one follows Christ-like ways. There are many toxic theologies out that that uphold corrupt politicians and voters.

That said, a robust democracy, with a free press, wide enfranchisement, freedom to associate, free speech, a well-educated citizenry, empowered minority voices, and ease of voting, is always to be preferred to a dictatorship. The country we live in, Greece, has in the past century suffered under two right-wing dictatorships and a Nazi occupation, so most people here are aware of the dangers of right-wing demagoguery. It also has hesitated to run towards a left-wing dictatorship; ever since the Communist Party was made legal in 1974 it never received much more than 9% of the vote, and these days usually gets around 5%. Democracy is never perfect (although the Swiss might claim theirs is really good), but it is the best system we have found to deal with political differences, and to serve the people. The Christian faith has co-existed with many types of governments – to the point of being co-opted and compromised – but it is probably least uncomfortable and comprised in a democracy. In being called to love our neighbour, to feed the hungry, give water to the poor, visit the sick, clothe the naked, care for the sick, we are also called to be involved in the politics that affect them and us.

Signs of the Times

Of course, I may be quite wrong in all of this. That said, we do live in a time of plague – perhaps not as awful as that visited upon the Egyptians, but still pretty awful.  

  • What are the signs of the times?
  • Who is it that God is calling on us to liberate?
  • How have the leaders led us astray?

May God give us the vision and the hearing to do God’s will on earth, as it is in heaven.

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Resources for Worship on the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

These are resources for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity (Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost) on Sunday, September 6, 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.

It would be very helpful to me to get a sense of whether there are people who actually use these resources, and would miss them if I did not do them (like last week). If you do appreciate my weekly collection of these resources, would you be so kind as to either leave a comment below or email me at bbryantscott AT gmail.com?

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Read

The readings appointed for this Sunday are Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 149, Romans 13:8-14, and Matthew 18:15-20. As we have been doing all summer, we will omit the reading from Romans and my sermon will focus on an aspect of the reading from the Torah.

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If you are in Crete, you will already know that in the Prefecture of Chania (which includes Apokoronas and Kefalas), gatherings of more than nine (9) persons are forbidden for at least another two weeks. In theory, we could meet for worship, but we would have to restrict attendance and turn people away. Rather than refuse anybody entry to the service, or do three in a row to accommodate everyone, or tell everyone to meet in a field just over the border in the Prefecture of Rethymno we have decided to suspend the service.

BUT, you can join us via Zoom!

Click this link, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209. My thanks to Jan Lovell for being the Zoom host last Sunday, and to the Reverends Julia Bradshaw and Ruth Wooster for leading the service.

If you do not want to 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.

Reflect

I will do my best to post the sermon promptly after I preach it on Sunday.

Fr Leonard Doolan of St Paul’s Anglican Church, Athens, has  once again sent me  a recording of the sermon he will preach on Sunday.

Pray

Collect

Almighty God,
who called your Church to bear witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross,
and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

Almighty God,
you search us and know us:
may we rely on you in strength
and rest on you in weakness,
now and in all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let us pray to God the Father,
who has reconciled all things to himself in Christ:

For peace among the nations,
that God may rid the world of violence
and let peoples grow in justice and harmony,
remembering the peoples of Yemen and Syria,
for peace between Turkey and Greece,
between Israelis and Palestinians;
your kingdom come, your will be done.

For those who serve in public office,
that they may work for the common good;
remembering especially

your kingdom come, your will be done.

For Christian people everywhere,
that we may joyfully proclaim and live our faith in Jesus Christ;

your kingdom come, your will be done.

For those who suffer from hunger, sickness or loneliness,
that the presence of Christ may bring them health and wholeness;

  • those who travel by land, air, or water,
    and for all medical staff testing and tracing tourists;
  • the sick and the suffering,
    remembering the over 7 million active cases of the novel coronavirus, and mourning with the families of the 880,000 who have died in the pandemic;
    and also remembering those ill with other diseases, and those whose operations have been postponed;
  • the over 79.5 million refugees and nearly 4 million stateless person, remembering especially the crucial situation of Greece;
  • the peoples of Belarus and Hong Kong, as they demonstrate for democracy; for the people across the world marching for fair treatment from security forces and police; for advocates of Indigenous rights and the adoption and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • prisoners and captives,
    especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China; and
  • the people of Lebanon, as they recover from the massive explosion in Beirut and the collapse of the government in that country;

your kingdom come, your will be done.

Let us commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God;
your kingdom come, your will be done.

Sing

This first piece seems to go with the reading from Exodus, as the people of Israel prepare to march out of Egypt. It comes out of South Africa, and, of course, it was one of many anthems associated with the long walk to freedom in that country.

This piece by John Bell comes from the Iona Community in Scotland, and is particularly well suited to be sung before gospel readings.

Where is the church?

I must have first heard this piece thirty years ago. It was written by Paul Halley, a English-born Canadian musician and organist when he was working at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City. If you do not know where it is going, hang on, because, like the Holy Spirit, it will take you to unexpected places! The latin lyrics Ubi caritas et amor Deus ibi est. Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor means: “Where there is charity and love, God is there. The love of Christ has gathered us together.”

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