Resources for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity

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

jacobesau

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

Share

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

First, you can join us for worship in person.

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

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

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

Read

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

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

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

Reflect

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

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

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

Pray

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

(or)

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sing

 

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I Commend My Spirit

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

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

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

Saint Thomas

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

 

I Commend My Spirit.

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

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

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

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

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

Types of Commitment

There are a bunch of ways to go at this.

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

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

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

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

rubens_apostel_thomas_grt

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

 

Why Thomas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Resources for the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle

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

St Thomas Icon copy

An icon of St Thomas as a young man.

Share

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

First, you can join us for worship in person.

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

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

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

Saint Thomas

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

Read

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

Reflect

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

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

rubens_apostel_thomas_grt

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

Pray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the Church:

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

For Government

Sing

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The Failure of Abraham and the Horror of God

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

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

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

The Sacrifice of Isaac (1966), Marc Chagall

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

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

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

IphigeniaTimanthus

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

Blood Thirsty Gods

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

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

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

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

Readings of The Akedah

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

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

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

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

What is the Value of a Life?

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

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

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

venice-us41-bypass-alternatives-25-728

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Resources for the Third Sunday after Trinity

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

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

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

Share

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

First, you can join us for worship in person.

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

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

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

Read

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

Reflect

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

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

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

Pray

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

(or)

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

Intercessions
Biddings
I bid your prayers for:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sing

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Expelling Hagar | The Response of God

A sermon preached on the Second Sunday after Trinity at
The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
on May 31, 2020 11:00 am

The readings used were Genesis 21:8-21, Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17, and Matthew 10:24-39.

So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.’.  Genesis 21:10

Expulsion_of_Ishmael_and_His_Mother

Expulsion of Ishmael and His Egyptian Mother, by Gustave Doré

 

Last Sunday we had our Annual Meeting, and in it we adopted our Vision Statement and Mission Plan. The Vision Statement is simple:

We believe that God’s vision for us, the Anglican Church of St Thomas, Kefalas, is: to radiate God’s love in Jesus Christ, on this island, and beyond.

What, then, do we do with a story such as this, which seems to be so unloving?

A Text of Terror

Genesis 21:1-18 is one of the passages in the Bible that the Biblical scholar Phyllis Trible calls Texts of Terror. The story of Sarah, Hagar, and Abraham, does not portray any of them at their best.

Earlier in the Book of Genesis we hear how Sarah appears to be incapable of having children. As a result, Abraham does not have an heir. Sarah seems to be someone who likes fixing things, so she encourages Abraham to take her Egyptian slave as a wife. She never names the woman, but simply gives Abraham permission to take her as a second spouse; whatever Hagar’s opinion in the matter is we are not told, as slaves’ opinions do not seem to matter.

When Hagar is pregnant, she apparently gets a little too proud, and according to the scripture, looks upon Sarah with contempt. Sarah, we are told, deals with her harshly, which may imply that she beat her, and Hagar runs away. In the desert, by an oasis God comes to her and tells her to return to Sarah, that the child she was bearing would become a great people, and that she would name the child Ishmael. Hagar does return, Ishmael is born, and he is circumcised along with all of the males of Abraham’s household, as a sign of the covenant. And, indeed, when this passage was written, Ishmael was seen as the ancestor of the Arabic people, just as Isaac, through Jacob, became the father of the Israelites.  Muslim Arabs to this day understand Ishmael as their father, and when Israelis and Palestinians confront themselves in the Middle East, in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, they see this as a conflict between relatives.

In today’s reading from Genesis Hagar leaves for good. Sarah insists that Abraham expel Hagar and Ishmael, although she does not deign to name them, but only refer to them as “this slave woman with her son”. Abraham, meekly, accedes to this request.

As is so often the case with people expelled from their home, she is at risk. There is no water where she is, and she expects that she and her child will die. She cannot even bear to be with her child as he dies. Then God shows her water, and she lives. Ishmael, like his half-brother’s son, Jacob, goes on to have twelve sons, which found the twelve tribes of the Ishmaelites, or Arabs. When we next hear of Ishmael it is at the burial of Abraham in chapter 25.

Hagar in the Desert

Hagar in the Desert (1960) by Marc Chagall

 

Who is Our Abraham? Who is our Sarah?
Who is our Hagar and Ishmael?

This is a story of terror because it speaks of the frailty and brokenness of our ancestors. We might like to think of our forebears as noble, but sometimes we are confronted with their cruelty and indifference to the fate of others. As it was in the days of the Patriarchs, so we look back at them, and wonder. In the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and, even in the the United Kingdom, there is a major reckoning with our imperial and colonial past.

Clearing_Stanley_lg Parson

W.P. Kay, Clearing the Town Plot at Stanley, October 1834, part of a promotional publication released by the Land Company. Source: National Archives of Canada, C-40780

I am the descendant of British colonists who left Scotland, Treland, and England in the 1830s. They were given land in what was then the colonies of New Brunswck and Canada East (now the province of Quebec). They were able to be given this land because the indigenous Miꞌkmaq, Haudenosaunee, Abenaki, and Algonquian peoples had been cleared out, forced to move away from the lands being settled and obliged to live in small, unproductive reserves. In the century before, the First Nations of those lands had signed friendship treaties, but they never signed treaties giving up their lands. in the late 18th century Loyalists came north, in the wake of the American Revolution, and the First Nations were ignored and lands were simply taken.

The last two generations of my family before me worked in the pulp and paper industry; both my father and grandfather were mechanical engineers who made newsprint, mostly for newspapers in Chicago. The companies they worked for exploited the natural resources of softwood trees in Quebec to make this newsprint. The trees stood on tens of thousands of square miles of the traditional lands of the Algonquin peoples, but there were no treaties made with them or permissions sought to take the trees. The people were pushed aside, and under the Indian Act of the 1880s obliged to live on reservations, which they could only leave with the “white” Indian agent’s say-so. They were forbidden from hiring lawyers to argue for their rights, denied citizenship, and their children were abducted and sent to residential schools where they could not speak their languages, practice their traditions, or see their parents, except maybe once or twice a year.

Now, the point of acknowledging this history is not to feel guilty – guilt’s a pretty useless emotion – but rather to see that my forebears were Abraham and Sarah to the indigenous peoples’ Hagar and Ishmael. What are we to to do with that kind of legacy? One thing is to take note of the trans-generational effects of that dispossession and marginalization, a trauma that continues to this day. But then what?

And the answer is to do what God did: provide what is necessary for life, even if it is as simple as water. God ensured that Ishmael lived by showing his mother a source of water. And in Canada? To this day, over one-hundred reserves in Canada have boil water advisories; and despite the pledges of successive party leaders and governments in election times, little progress is being made. In Canada, I would advocate for the government doing more, and doing so effectively with action to match words.

Jesus was well aware that these kinds of things could be divisive. It sounds political, because it involves power and justice. In his own life . . .

  • he was critical of those who supported the compromised collaborationist leaders in Jerusalem, and their emissaries among the scribes and the Pharisees;
  • he called out those who sought to impose a kind of legalistic spirituality with a myriad of rules, but had no sense of justice or their own hypocrisy;
  • he challenged  the religious elite who were so self-obsessed that they did not realise that their piety was for show; and
  • Jesus saw that following him could bring conflict into families, and that while concerning, this was not a reason not to stand for justice.

Radiating God’s Love

So, what might this mean for us?

We believe that God’s vision for us to radiate God’s love in Jesus Christ, on this island, and beyond.

There are many opportunities to show that love. For example, there are Hagars and Ishmaels not so far from us, in the Moria Refugee Camp on the island of Lesvos. A place built for 3100, it now houses over 20,000, and it has been described as one of the worst refugee camps on earth. 40% of the residents are children. I have no idea what we might do, but the question still needs to be asked: How do we respond to this situation? We are strangers in a strange land, but do we act like Abraham, meekly acquiescing to the situation, or do we act like God, somehow bringing about a miracle?

My hope and my prayer is that we move

from words to action,
from a mission plan to mission implementation, and
that we grow in faith and accomplish good deeds.

May we take up the cross and follow Jesus, and in losing our lives for his sake, will find our true lives.

 

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Resources for Trinity II

These are resources for the Second Sunday after Trinity (Third Sunday after Pentecost), June 21, 2020, gathered from a variety of sources and, while assembled mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, others may find them useful!

Hagar in the Desert

Hagar in the Desert (1960) by Marc Chagall

Share

There are several ways you can join in worship this coming Sunday, June 21, 2020.

First, you can join us for worship in person.

  • We meet this coming Sunday, June 21, 2020 at 11:00 am EEST at the Tabernacle of the Church of St Thomas, Kefalas.
  • It will be a Holy Communion according to Common Worship.
  • People should come only if they are comfortable with being out and about as the pandemic restrictions are being lifted, and are in good health.
  • Those of you were were there last week and are coming again, please remember to return with your hymn book, psalter, and service booklet!

Second, 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.

Third, you can join a worship service via Zoom or YouTube. For the past several weeks we have been broadcasting our service from the Tabernacle via Zoom, but this has only been possible by using a mobile phone as an internet hotspot (we do not have internet wifi at the church). Although I have a generous data plan, it is not sufficiently generous to stream the vast amount of data required by video, and once one goes over, the charges for excess data are prohibitively expensive. I am in the process of working out an economical way of gaining internet access, but it will not be in place this Sunday; for this I apologise.

Here are two alternatives:

  • Sue Whitehouse commends the YouTube services of The Chapels Royal at Her Majesty’s Tower of London. The music is characteristically top notch, and the readings are frequently  done by David Suchet, a parishioner of the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula (but not in his role as Hercule Poirot). Click on the hyperlink. The service is usually posted the night before.
  • There will be a Zoom service from the Anglican Church of St Paul’s, Athens at 10:00 am EEST (8:00 am BST). The meeting ID is 227 360 090 and the password is 422061.

Read

The readings appointed in the Revised Common Lectionary/Church of England Common Worship Lectionary for the Sunday closest to June 22 are Genesis 21:8-21, Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17, Romans 6:1b-11, and Matthew 10:24-39.

At St Thomas’s this Sunday we will omit the second reading, the one from Romans.

Reflect

I will try to get the text of the sermon up promptly after preaching it. I will be preaching on the story from Genesis, the story of the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael by Sarah and Abraham.  It is one of the stories in the Bible which the Hebrew Bible scholar Phyllis Trible called a Text of Terror. 

Fr Leonard of St Paul’s, Athens has sent us his prerecorded sermon for Trinity II:

Pray

Collect
Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

(or)

Faithful Creator,
whose mercy never fails:
deepen our faithfulness to you
and to your living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

O God, the creator and preserver of all,
we pray for people in every kind of need;
make your ways known on earth,
your saving health among all nations, especially . . .

  • Αικατερίνη Σακελλαροπούλου, Πρόεδρος, και Κυριάκος Μητσοτάκης, Πρωθυπουργός (Ελλάδα) (Aikaterini Sakellaropoulou, President, and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Prime Minister (Greece));
  • 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;
  • Elizabeth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and
    • her government in the United Kingdom led by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
    • her vice-regal representative in Canada, Julie Payette, the Governor General of Canada, and the national government of Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister.

God of love, hear our prayer.

We pray for the good estate of the catholic Church;
guide and govern us by your good Spirit,
that all who profess and call themselves Christians
may be led into the way of truth,
and hold the faith in unity of spirit,
in the bond of peace and in righteousness of life, especially:

God of love, hear our prayer.

We commend to your fatherly goodness
all those who are any ways afflicted or distressed,
in mind, body or estate;
comfort and relieve them in their need,
give them patience in their sufferings,
and bring good out of all their afflictions.

  • for the over 8.3 million people infected by the Coronavirus, and for healthcare workers;
  • for the unemployed, those who were not working before the pandemic, and those who have been made redundant since it began;
  • for minorities and people of colour demanding justice in the face of ongoing violence and discrimination;
  • on this day, which in Canada is National Indigenous Peoples Day, for the first peoples of Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia.

God of love, hear our prayer.

We remember those who have gone before us
in the peace of Christ,
and we give you praise for all your faithful ones,
with whom we rejoice in the communion of saints, remembering

  • Titus, sent by Paul to this holy island of Crete;
  • the Ten Saints of Crete;
  • Hagar and Ishmael, Abraham and Sarah;
  • Thomas our patron and the rest of the Twelve;
  • Mary of Magdala, who first bore the good news of the resurrection to the disciples; and
  • Mary, the Mother of God.

God of love, hear our prayer.

All this we ask for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

Sing

In 1993 the husband and wife team of Beryl Korot, videographer, and steve reich, composer, premiered their unusual work The Cave. The title refers to the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron, in the West Bank. It is held by both Jews and Muslims to be the burial site of Abraham and Sarah. Unusually, it is part mosque and part synagogue.

In the early ’90s Korot and Reich went to Israel, the West Bank, and the United States to ask a series of questions of Jews, Muslims, and Americans.  They asked a series of questions: Who is Abraham? Who is Sarah? Who is Hagar? Who is Ishmael? Who is Isaac? They also asked about God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son (Isaac in Jewish & Christian tradition, Ishmael in Islamic), and about the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron. They then took the raw videotape, and Reich used the natural intonations of the speakers’ speech to create musical motifs, which were then echoed or backed what was said. Along with videos of the speakers, Biblical passages were back-projected on the screen backed by percussive “typing music”.

This all resulted in a new genre of an oratorio, where the libretto is based on people’s answers to questions. While video is projected and the recorded audio is played back, the music is performed by: a vocal quartet of two sopranos, tenor, and baritone; two reed players on flute, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet, and bass clarinet; four percussionists on vibraphone, marimbaphone, bass drum, kick bass drums, and clapping; three keyboard players; and a standard string quartet of two violins, viola, cello. Have a listen; it is unlike anything else in modern music.

For something a little more normal, here are the hymns we’ll be singing on Sunday.

A slightly different version of an old favourite.

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Resources for the First Sunday after Trinity

These are resources for the First Sunday after Trinity (Second Sunday after Pentecost), June 14, 2020, gathered from a variety of sources and meant mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, but others may find them helpful!

The Trinity br Kelly Latimore

The Trinity, by Kelly Latimore. See below in “Reflect” for the artist’s comments on the icon.

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There are three ways you can use these resources.

First, you can join us for worship in person. We have resumed worship and will continue this coming Sunday, June 14, 2020 at 11:00 am EEST at the Tabernacle of the Church of St Thomas, Kefalas. It will be a Holy Communion according to Common Worship. People should come only if they are comfortable with being out and about as the pandemic restrictions are being lifted, and are in good health. Those of you were were there last week and are coming again, please remember to return with your hymn book, psalter, and service booklet!

Second, you can join us via ZOOM. We will livestream the service at the Tabernacle at 11:00 am EEST (9:00 am BST for you folk in England, and 1:00 am for those of you in British Columbia). The link is (as last week):
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85044839927?pwd=TkQ1cHEzNUNjSjVCNTNJVUJwSkZaQT09
Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209. T
he Order of Service can be downloaded here: Holy Communion 2020 The Sundays after Trinity. The Order of Service will be shared on Zoom, as will the hymns.

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

Read

Starting this Sunday and continuing until the First Sunday of Advent we will be mostly using the sets of readings that are from the Revised Common Lectionary We will be using the continuous sets of readings for the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, so we begin now with passages from Genesis and make our way through Exodus to Deuteronomy. The New Testament readings will be from Paul’s letters to the Romans and Philippians. The Gospel readings are mostly from Matthew.

The readings appointed for the Sunday between 12 and 18 June inclusive, Year A are:

Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)

We will use the longer version of the Genesis reading, but the shorter version of the Gospel reading.

Reflect

I will put my sermon up as a separate post on Sunday, but only after I preach it.

In the meantime, here are the artist’s comment on the picture above, from here. It references our first reading from Genesis.

God for us, God alongside us, God within us.”
~Richard Rohr

This version of the Trinity was a commissioned work and collaboration with a priest from Trinity Wall Street parish in New York City named Mark Bozzuti-Jones.

As humans we really can only talk about God through metaphor. Speaking and language itself is simply metaphor. The common western notion of God has been Monarchical and God and Jesus sit on thrones. But what the theology of the Trinity did is use scripture to show that God is relationship itself. That through Jesus the metaphor became flesh.

The Icons basic form comes from the original icon of the Trinity by Andrei Rublev (which you have probably seen). The image Rublev used that was the closest metaphor for this Triune relationship was the story of the 3 Angels that visit Abraham and Sarah. The icon shows the three Angels sitting at the table, each angel representing The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Rublev was simply using the metaphors he had to depict the Trinity in Icon form.

One interesting tidbit about the original Rublev icon is that Scientists having analyzed the centuries old wood discovered that there was old residue in the middle of the table, and they concluded that a small mirror used to be glued there. It is thought this was allowing the viewer to see themselves at the table.

With all of this in mind the version that Mark and I collaborated on was based on this Icon but as with metaphors of God, seeing the Angels as women is not at all problematic, but an important exploration of God as mother/ sister, feminine.

They sit at the table, this time holding hands. The Christ figure is in the center, bridging the Holy Spirit and God. Blue always represents divinity, ( the sea and the sky) red is humanity, (blood). God is on the left in bright heavenly robes, God points toward the viewer, looking at the others seated, acknowledging the viewer’s presence. The Holy Spirit is dressed in green representing growth, wilderness, nature, the earth, she holds out her hand inviting the viewer to the table.

on the table the rainbow table cloth is yet another metaphor, symbolizing that at the Trinity’s table, all people are welcome. Instead of the Eucharist like in Rublev’s version, there is grapes and wheat, which symbolizes the work that is still to be done.

The background we see a Temple, where God dwells, a tree representing Jesus crucified, and a mountain symbolizing the spirit calling us to the wilderness, toward a new way.

Prints available here:
https://www.artpal.com/KLicons

I knew Mark Bozzuti-Jones when we lived in Boston in 2002-2003, and I am not at all surprised that he was the person who commissioned this icon.

As well, here is Fr Leonard Doolan’s of St Paul’s Athens with his pre-recorded sermon for the First Sunday after Advent.

Pray

Collect

O God,
the strength of all those who put their trust in you,
mercifully accept our prayers
and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature
we can do no good thing without you,
grant us the help of your grace,
that in the keeping of your commandments
we may please you both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

God of truth,
help us to keep your law of love
and to walk in ways of wisdom,
that we may find true life
in Jesus Christ your Son.

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

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
you promised through your Son Jesus Christ
to hear us when we pray in faith.
Strengthen all your Church in the service of Christ, especially:

  • Justin Welby, our Archbishop of Canterbury & Primate of All England, and Stephen Cottrell as he is embarks on a new ministry as Archbishop of York;
  • Robert Innes & David Hamid, our Bishops here in the Diocese in Europe;
  • the churches and peoples of Malawi and Zambia (World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle);
  • the Church of the Province of Myanmar (Burma) and Stephen Than Myint Oo, Archbishop of Myanmar and Bishop of Yangon (Anglican Cycle of Prayer);
  • (from the Prayer Diary of the Diocese in Europe)
    • the Serbian Orthodox Church, and Robin Fox as Archbishop of Canterbury’s Apokrisiarios to the Patriarch of Serbia. Pray for the autocephalous Orthodox churchesof Eastern Europe and the Baltic.
    • Ben Gordon-Taylor (Liturgy Officer); John Newsome (Spirituality Advisor & Area Dean for Germany); and our team of Spiritual Directors;

that those who confess your name may be united in your truth,
live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Bless, guide, and give wisdom to all in authority, especially:

  • Αικατερίνη Σακελλαροπούλου, Πρόεδρος, και Κυριάκος Μητσοτάκης, Πρωθυπουργός (Ελλάδα) (Aikaterini Sakellaropoulou, President, and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Prime Minister (Greece));
  • 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;
  • Elizabeth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and
    • her government in the United Kingdom led by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
    • her vice-regal representative in Canada, Julie Payette, the Governor General of Canada, and the national government of Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister.

and direct this and every nation in the ways of justice and of peace;
that we may honour one another, and seek the common good.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Give grace to us, our families and friends, and to all our neighbours,
that we may serve Christ in one another, and love as he loves us.
Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit;
give them courage and hope in their troubles;
and bring them the joy of your salvation.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Hear us as we remember those who have died in the faith of Christ …;
according to your promises,
grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom.
Rejoicing in the fellowship of

Abraham and Sarah;
Thomas our patron and the rest of the Twelve Disciples;
Mary of Magdala, the apostle to the apostles;
Mary the mother of God;
and all your saints;

we commend ourselves and the whole creation to your unfailing love.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sing

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Even More Resources for Trinity Sunday

In addition to the regular set of resources I published last Wednesday, here are a few more.

The first is a video that has made the rounds since it was first posted a few years ago. It’s short, funny, and informative.

The second video is from the Rev’d Ken McClure of the Parish of Haliburton in the northern, rural stretches of the Diocese of Toronto (you’ll need to click on the link:  I am the Very Model of a Modern Trinitarian.

Screenshot 2020-06-06 at 12.07.46 PM

Like me he is a divinity graduate of Trinity College Toronto, and has long hair and a beard. Unlike me he has not gone grey, and is a trained performer, having spent ten years in musical theatre across Canada before taking up a new vocation. A hat tip to the Rev’d Michael Povey (formerly of Bristol UK and Cambridge MA, but now in Sarasota FL) for telling me about this.

Finally, and in a more serious vein, here is Fr Leonard Doolan of St Paul’s, Athens with his sermon for Trinity Sunday 2020.

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Is the Holy Spirit Among Us?

A sermon preached (while wearing a mask) on
Pentecost Sunday: The Fiftieth Day of Easter at
The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
May 31, 2020 11:00 am,
somewhat rewritten and expanded
.

The readings we used, from the choices appointed in the Revised Common Lectionary (“RCL”), Year A, were: Numbers 11:24-30, Psalm 104:25-35, 37, Acts 2:1-21, and John 7:37-39.

Pentecost Red Picture

Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  John 7:39

Is the Holy Spirit at work in us today?

The answer for us is undoubtedly yes, but for many centuries there was a strong current of thought that the work of the Holy Spirit was done about a hundred years after the time of Christ. Certain Protestant churches, and in Anglicanism, as well, it was believed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were restricted to the Apostolic era. Once the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament were done, sometime around 120 CE or so, the third person of the Trinity retired.  In fact, many Evangelicals across denominations continue to believe this.

So let us have a look at this belief and let me explain why I think it is wrong.

What, or Who, is the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is God, one person of the Holy Trinity. God the Father is understood to be the Source of all things, who “begets” the Son and from whom the Spirit “proceeds”. The First Person of the Trinity is the one to whom Jesus prayed and who he obeyed. The Second Person is the Word of God, through whom the world was created, and in who all living things dwell. This Word became flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who preached. healed, drove out the evil things that posessed people, fed the hungry and reached out to the poor and marginalized, and ultimately was put to death by the Roman Empire and its collaborators among the Judean leadership and priesthood. This Jesus was raised from the dead to glory, and we believe him living still, and we look for his coming again.

So far so familiar (I hope). In the Gospel of John Jesus promises a Comforter for the disciples when he leaves them. This is the Spirit of God, which gives the people of God gifts for the building up of the church. Paul enumerates some of them in his First Letter to the Corinthians:

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

This is not an exhaustive list of the gufts, but you get the picture.

Now, we Christians believe that the Holy Spirit was also active in the eras before Jesus.

  • Thus we hear in our first reading that the Spirit of God came upon the seventy elders, and even upon two who seemingly were not supposed to receive it.
  • In Exodus 25:10 we hear of Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, who was filled with divine spirit to manufacture vessels and furnishings for the Tabernacle (i.e. the Temple).
  • When Saul was king of Judah and Israel he was told that,

    as you come to the town, you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the shrine with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre playing in front of them; they will be in a prophetic frenzy. Then the spirit of the Lord will possess you, and you will be in a prophetic frenzy along with them and be turned into a different person. 1 Samuel 10:5-6

  • When Saul anointed David “the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David” (1 Samuel 16:13), and he was seized with a similar frenzy when he brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem:

    David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. 2 Samuel 6:5

  • The prophet Isaiah looked forward to a king of the House of David, and believed that:

    The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

    the spirit of counsel and might,

    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11:2

  • The prophets experienced the Spirit. For example, Ezekiel wrote,

    And when God spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. Ezekiel 2:2

While the Spirit came down upon a select few, one of the prophets believed that the ourpouring of the Spirit would be more general in the last days.

Then afterward
    I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
    in those days, I will pour out my spirit. Joel 2:28-29

The author of the Acts of the Apostles believed that this was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus. And it does seem, both from this book of the New Testament and from many others, that the coming of the Spirit was something shared by all Christians.

Suspicions

That said, there was seemingly some wariness of the Holy Spirit in ancient times. After all, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus the first thing it did was drive him out into the desert to be tempted. The Gospel of John compares it to the wind, being equally unpredictable. Paul spends three chapters in his First Letter to the Corinthians addressing the relative importance of the gifts of the Spirit.

In the Second Century CE  a man named Montanus lived in ancient Phrygia, in what is now Turkey. He claimed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, and a new prophet. Perhaps more disturbingly to others, he had two female followers named Prisca and Maximilla, who became co-equal leaders of the movement with him. They had ecstatic visions, spoke in tongues, and claimed a lineage of prophecy going back to the daughters of Philip. They encouraged ordinary laity to practice fasting and other ascetic behaviors. They believed that their leaders could pronounce the forgiveness of sins without having to be ordained. All of this was very disturbing to the ordained leadership of the church, who were unsettled by the uncontrollable women and men of what became known as Montanism. It was condemned by various bishops and synods in the Second Century and subsequent ones, and slowly they died out by the Seventh Century.

Fast forward to John Calvin (1509-1564), the man who launched the Reformed or Calvinist stream of Protestantism. Calvnism is the historic theology and doctrine of the Church of Geneva, a large part of German Protestantism, the Netherlands, Scottish Presbyterians (and Irish), and many evangelicals. The Puritans in England sought to impose Calvinism on what they considered to be an only partially reformed church.

Jean Calvin (or Jehan Cauvin, as his mother would have known him) was a French lawyer, and renounced Catholicism for the reformed faith being preached by Martin Luther and Zwingli in Zurich. Calvin disagreed with Luther on several points, and when he was the leading pastor in Geneva he wrote the Institutes of Christian Religion, initially in 1536 and revised and massively expanded several times before his death in 1564.

Calvin disliked many things about the Catholicism of his time. One was the claim of authority by the church by virtue of the Holy Spirit For Calvin there was one authority only, and that was scripture. The claim that the Holy Spirit was active in the church legitimated Roman authority. Calvin held that ever since the canon was closed, some hundred years after Jesus’s death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit was less active. Therefore, real Christians have not needed anything since; just read the book. As well, Calvin hated all the miracles and visions of Catholicism. These were not spiritual, but probably demonic, in his opinion.

For historians and sociologists this exaltation of reason and text over the spiritual led to the disenchantment of the world. In becoming less spiritual and deeply sceptical about miracles, and more about belief and assent to propositions, Reformed Christianity created the context for the emergence of the sciences, regarding the material world not as miraculous, but as rational and subject to exploitation.

This disenchanted approach to the material world dominated Christian thought for the next four centuries. Even Catholicism became more reticent in the works of miracles among us.

Revival

But then, about 120 years ago, a group of protestant Christians, who probably had not paid much attention to Calvin, if they knew him at all, came into being in a poor part of Los Angeles. They were African-Americans, not exactly well educated by middle-class white standards, and their pastors derived from what is known as Holiness Movement that put a premium on personal sanctity.

event_azusa_street_revivalIt was led by William J. Seymour, an African American preacher at the Azusa Street Mission. It started in 1906 and continued until roughly 1915. On the night of April 9, 1906, Seymour and seven men were waiting on God. “Suddenly, as though hit by a bolt of lightning, they were knocked from their chairs to the floor” and the other seven men began to speak in tongues and shout out loud praising God. The news quickly spread; the city was stirred; crowds gathered; and a few days later Seymour himself received the Holy Spirit; services were moved outside to accommodate the crowds who came from all around; people fell down under the power of God as they approached; people were baptized in the Holy Spirit and the sick were healed and sinners received salvation.

Azusa_RevivalThis was the beginning of what we now call Pentecostalism.  For much of the 20th century it was looked down upon by main-line denominations, especially Calvinists. They were Holy Rollers. They used popular music. Scandalously, many of their clergy were women. Could anything good come out of America – out of L.A.? They were accountable to no one, seemingly, because of their appeal that they were guided by God the Holy Spirit. They seemed less interested in theology than demonstrations of healing and speaking in tongues, which just seemed weird. It seemed wide open to abuse by fraudsters and hucksters. Their reading of the Bible seemed all too simple, with no nuance.

And yet, it grew. It spilled over into Catholicism and Anglicanism as the Charismatic movement, from the Greek word for “gifts” charismata. Arguably the majority of the growth of the church in the past 100 years has been due to the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements that had its source in Azusa Street in Los Angeles. As Christianity grew in Africa and Asia, and was remade in South America, Christians there looked back at North America and Europe and felt sorry for us here, seeing us as living in a spiritual wasteland. Finally, in the past twenty years, it has grown even in the Church of England, spreading through churches such as Holy Trinity Brompton and its Alpha course. We now have an Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who admits that he speaks in tongues and does so as part of his personal prayers.

So where might that leave us?

The Holy Spirit For All of Us

I am not a Charismatic. I don’t speak in tongues. I claim no special gifts of healing. I am probably rather skeptical of many claims of inspiration, wanting to test them against scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.

However, I cannot discount the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • This is the same Spirit which propelled the small group in Jerusalem from some 120 souls to the current 2.3 billion.
  • This is the same Holy Spirit which inspired the authors of the Holy Scriptures and inspires modern day prophets and activists.
  • It is the Holy Spirit which reformed the church in the 16th century.
  • It opened up ministry to women, and encouraged the laity to claim their baptismal ministries.
  • This is the same Holy spirit that has allowed us in the past century to look across our differences as Christians and to create the ecumenical movements.
  • This is the same Holy Spirit which is at work in Eastern Orthodoxy, calling the faithful into a union with Christ that allows for believers to become ever more like Jesus, thus allowing the human to become divinized.
  • It is the same Holy Spirit we call down on the bread and wine so that it may be for us the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
  • It is that Holy Spirit which allows us to be the Body of Christ, a mystery that goes beyond propositions and text.

And, I suggest, it is that same power which founded the church here some seventeen years ago, and which will carry us on for years to come.

So, yes, the Holy Spirit is at work in us, even if we do not speak in tongues. Come Holy Spirit. Maranatha. Come Lord, come.

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