Category Archives: Preaching

The Most Important Lenten Discipline

Donnie McDaniel preached this morning at our Wednesday morning Eucharist service. Here is his sermon! A great reminder this Lent.

Romans 5:6-11  For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.  8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.  9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.  10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.  11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Art Lent 5 B

In preparation for preaching this morning, I was faced with the task of deciding which of these three passages that I would preach, and any of them would make for a wonderful homily, but as a preacher by trade and calling, I would not be worth my salt if I did not preach from Paul’s letter to the Romans when given the opportunity; thus, that is where we will spend our brief time together this morning. Romans, after all, has played a major role in the theology of Western Christianity, the branch of the faith in which we stand as Anglicans. It was a passage in Romans that led to the conversion of St. Augustine. It was the book of Romans that Martin Luther, the 16th century Reformer, urged all Christians to memorize. In the early 20th century it was Karl Barth’s commentary called Der Romerbrief that exploded on the playground of liberal, Protestant theology, and even today the great minds of the Christian faith continue to mine the depths of St. Paul’s masterpiece, so this morning we will be in good company.

Specifically, this morning we will be spending our time in Romans 5.6-11 where I hope we will pick up the most important Lenten practice—preaching the gospel to ourselves. A few short weeks ago, many of us were here on Ash Wednesday, and we began the great journey of Lent, a six week period of deep introspection where we take a long look at our own sins and what it cost Christ to effect such a great reconciliation between God and humanity. During Lent, many of us have chosen to follow the Great Tradition and restrict our diets. We willingly choose to go without so that we can remember more clearly what Christ has done on our behalf, but even in this season, when we are supposed to be focused on Christ, it is easy for us to look again at our own practices. Knowing the sinful bent of the human heart, the Ash Wednesday liturgy is carefully formed around a gospel text that warns us against engaging in religious practices, such as fasting, that draw attention to ourselves. And one of the best ways we can avoid this tendency is to remind ourselves of what God has done for us, and that is what we will do today as we look at the two sides of the gospel; the present assurance that we have in Christ, and the future hope that we have in him as well. So, let’s take a look at Romans 5.6-11 and see what Paul has for us this morning.

Paul, in verse nine is building upon our justification before God, an idea that he introduces back in verse one of the present chapter. The justification that we have in Christ is the declaration of our right standing with God via our participation in the life and death of Jesus Christ, who completed the work that God had prepared for him from the foundation of world. Now please note the tense that Paul uses to describe this Justification, he says we have been justified. This is something that is already accomplished. I call this the present assurance that we have in Christ. Those who have placed their faith in the finished work of Jesus the Messiah already enjoy the truth that they belong to the family of God, that is the verdict that you and I can expect from God at the final judgment, has been applied to us already. Paul then goes on to tell us that this justification arrived at God’s appointed time; this means that Jesus’ ministry including his death, resurrection, and ascension happened at the just the right moment in time. Despite how Rousseau and the rest of the Enlightenment thinkers would like to tell the story, the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus constitute the climax of history. God moved to restore his creation at exactly the right time, and this was done while we were still weak and sinful.

The fact that God justified humanity while we were weak and sinful is beautiful truth. Paul himself says here that, “God proves his love for us that while we were sinners Christ died for us.” What St. Paul is conveying to us is that humanity, individually and corporately, has done nothing to earn this justified status before God. It is entirely a free gift of grace from a loving God who stepped into the theater of history to enact a redemption that provides justification to humanity, but also, as Paul goes on to teach us in Romans 8, provides salvation to all of creation itself. This is the first half of the gospel that we should be preaching to ourselves. We should constantly tell ourselves that while we were weak and sinful, Jesus willingly gave his life that we could have the right standing with God. I know that this explains my situation when God found me. I was 17 years old, and had grown up in private Christian school. I knew all about God, but I did not know God, and there is a real difference. However, God in a display of his love for me saved me from a terrible car accident. He placed me in the life of his son and gave me purpose. I stand justified before the throne of God. I tell myself that story often, and I encourage you to relive your stories as well.

Building upon the present assurance of justification that we currently have before God, Paul goes on teach us about our future hope. Verse 9 says, “Much more surely then, now that we have been justified in his blood, will we be saved from the wrath of God.” St. Paul presents our future hope as an absolute guarantee, because compared to our justification before God, which was accomplished when we were still weak and sinful; our salvation from the coming wrath of God is a small feat on the part of God. Paul is here employing an ancient rabbinic rhetorical device of arguing from the greater to the lesser (a minori ad maius). This explains the way in which Paul describes this future hope in verse ten; God reconciled us to himself in Christ while we were still enemies. He did not wait for us to clean ourselves up and come to him; his action toward us was not predicated upon any acts of penance on our part. Rather, he took the initiative and reconciled us to himself through the death of Jesus. We can know without a doubt that our future destiny and status before God is secure in our participation in the death and life of Jesus Christ.

In fact, Paul goes to great lengths to emphasize the importance of our participation in Christ. He uses the same preposition (in) in reference to the death of Jesus and the resurrection life of Christ. We are justified in the present and saved in the future by our mystical union with Christ, often conveyed in Paul by the phrase “in Christ.” Our participation in Christ, if we follow the logic of Paul, extends to the key aspects of Christ’s work. In the very next chapter of Romans Paul gives an exposition that our baptism is one of the points where we participate in the death of Christ on the cross and rise with him on Easter morning. Therefore, when God looks down on his justified and saved saints, he sees none other than his own dearly beloved Son with whom he is well pleased.

Now that we have looked at our present assurance and our future hope, we should be in a position where we can preach this gospel to ourselves through the rest of Lent. As we remember what Christ has done for us, we can also remember that via our belief in his completed work, we participate in the life of Christ. He lives in us and we in him, just like the various Eucharistic prayers in the liturgy remind us each time we gather for worship. It is in this gospel that we will find the power necessary to complete our Lenten vows. We can wash our face in the waters of this gospel and anoint our heads with the oil of this good news. If we tell ourselves daily that we are justified in Christ, and that we will be saved from the wrath of God, no one will ever be aware of our secret fasting as we will be consuming that bread that others cannot understand. This is the message that we need to preach to ourselves, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

As we are preaching this message to our audience of one, our views of Lent can also be transformed. We will no longer be focused on our sacrifices or our acts of penance, as if anything that you or I could do would ever place God in our debt. Rather, we will be reminded that while we were sinners Christ died for us and that this act has reconciled us completely to God in the present and secured our standing before him in the future. As I was thinking about how this gospel could change our perceptions of Lent, I came across these words from the Very Reverend Robert Munday, Dean Emeritus of Nashotah House Theological Seminary. He writes, “We would do well to remember the purposes for which Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness. He had no sins for which he needed to atone. We have no sins for which we are capable of atoning. If we could, what he did for us—what he had to do for us—would not be necessary. So Lent is really much more about what God adds to our lives as we spend intentional, focused time with him than what we give up, because the Gospel is always about what God has done for us, not about what we do for him.”

That last line, the Gospel is always about what God has done for us, not about what we do for him, sums up the discussion very well. If we preach God’s good news to ourselves during the rest of Lent, we may find that our lives are transformed. This proclamation to the self may just be the jumpstart that each of us needs to start engaging our neighbors and our co-workers with the message of God’s reconciling love in Jesus Christ. We may find ourselves all the more capable of inviting that friend that we know is lost to church for Easter services, we will have to wait and see what God does as we preach to ourselves the rest of Lent, but we can rest assured that his word will not return to him void.

 

 

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An Invitation into the Observance of a Holy Lent at All Saints

Lent is the season of preparation – forty days plus six Sundays – leading up to Easter. Lent calls us to self-examination, penitence, humility, and renewal. It is a time to concentrate on fundamental spiritual values and priorities, not a time for self-punishment.

Throughout Lent, our worship services take on a simpler tone. The songs are more subdued; the liturgy is more penitential; the word “Alleluia” is not used. This Lenten way of worship encourages reflection and simplicity.

Many Christians mark the season of Lent by giving up something. Busyness plagues us all in our culture: giving up television, or taking one day a week to “fast” from email, can be a powerful Lenten discipline. Others choose a traditional fast from specific foods or drink. Others change and curtail spending habits.

But relinquishment is only the first half of a true Lent. Letting go of one thing creates capacity to take hold of another – so fasting paves the way for more prayer, or more generous giving to the poor, or more enjoyment of simple opportunities for “soul rest.” During Lent some people rededicate themselves to more consistent daily Bible reading or disciplined prayer. Others take a course of spiritual study. This year at All Saints, we are offering a special Lenten Discipleship Group,beginning Monday, February 20 at 7 p.m.  The class will read and discuss Christopher Jamison’s book Finding Sanctuary, exploring together lessons and practices from classical monasticism.

Special services punctuate Lent. We begin with Ash Wednesday, February 22: an abbreviated 12:00 noon service and a full Eucharist at 7:00 p.m. (Childcare offered at both.) On March 18 we will observe the Stations of the Cross in a Prayer Service in the late afternoon. Lent reaches a climax with Holy Week services – Palm Sunday (April 1), April 5 Maundy Thursday footwashing and Eucharist (7:00 p.m.) and the April 6 Good Friday service (7:00 p.m.)

Lent is also an especially appropriate time for a service of personal confession. Confession to a priest is not required, but for many, making a confession to a priest can be a powerful time of spiritual reconciliation and healing. Please contact Rector Steve Breedlove or Associate Rector Thomas Kortus if you would like to meet for a service of personal confession and reconciliation.

Finally, during Lent we will be preaching through the Letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation. Throughout the season, the Sunday Sermon Notes insert will include questions for further study and prayer. Use them personally, with your 242 group or with friends or family members.

We pray that God will use this 2012 Lenten season to draw us into greater intimacy with himself and to form us into a truer likeness of his Son.

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What is the Relationship Between Social Justice and Kingdom Work?

Social justice apart from the church not ‘kingdom work,’ author says 
By Terry Goodrich
Thursday, October 20, 2011 
WACO, Texas (ABP) — A rising generation of Christians intent on working for social justice must not confuse that effort with “kingdom work,” award-winning Christian author Scot McKnight said during the Parchman Endowed Lectures series at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary.”In our country, the younger generation is becoming obsessed with social justice,” including through government opportunities, politics and voting, said McKnight, author of The Jesus Creed:Loving God, Loving Others.“What it’s doing is leading young Christians out of the church and into the public sector to do what they call ‘kingdom work.’

“I want to raise a red flag here: There is no such thing as kingdom work outside the church — and I don’t mean the building. The kingdom is about King Jesus and King Jesus’ people and King Jesus’ ethics for King Jesus’ people.

“Social justice outside the church is not biblical justice or kingdom work. It is social work. Fine, that’s a good thing. But let’s not call this kingdom work.”

Instead, he called on listeners to make the church “a beachhead of justice and peace and love” for those in need in the church. Then, “let that kind of church and kingdom and justice work spill over into the walls of your community.”

Churches have lost sight in other ways of their mission of spreading the gospel of God’s atoning work through Jesus, said McKnight, the Karl A. Olsson professor in religious studies at Chicago’s North Park University.

“We like our music and our drama groups. We’re now more and more driven to act justly in social ways by engagement with the poor and despised, and we’re hoping that in doing this, our little lights will shine,” McKnight said, referring to the lyrics of a children’s gospel song.

Churches have shaped themselves using entertainment and business models — even down to satisfaction surveys, he said.

But “when will we ever learn as churches and as pastor/teachers that all we have to offer, all we have to tell people about, and all we have to show people is Jesus?” he asked.

Among the primary instruments for doing that are preaching and teaching the gospel, baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Spirit-shaped fellowship, he said.

Through baptism — with its embodiment of the death and resurrection — and the partaking of the Lord’s Supper, “the gospel is shown in a way that words cannot interpret,” he said.

McKnight recalled that in his youth, Communion often was observed quickly at sermon’s end — before roasts simmering at home for Sunday lunch would dry out. He remembered one church even set up a stand where Communion elements could be picked up by departing members.

He recalled thinking: “Yikes almighty. Drive-away Eucharist.”

“There’s no reason to rush the Lord’s Supper, because it’s the gospel,” McKnight said. “There’s no reason to tack it on to a sermon. There are good reasons to let the Eucharist be a sermon.”

Terry Goodrich writes for Baylor University.

Commentary from Scot McKnight written on his blog: I’m all for “social” justice. I’m fighting the trend I see today of equating “kingdom work” with public sector social justice work. As if “kingdom” is something done outside the church. As I read the Gospels, Jesus’ uses “kingdom” for himself/God as King, for his followers who enter into his kingdom vision, and for the ecclesial/social conditions created by those who follow Jesus and his kingdom vision. So, there is no such thing as “kingdom” outside those who follow Jesus. Yes, by all means, kingdom people extend kingdom into other areas but only so far as they are embodying Jesus’ kingdom vision.

Those on the right side of the theological spectrum may think I’m an ally of theirs on this point; not so. I want the church to be a kingdom embodiment and I’m not criticizing social work at all; I’m pushing back against the left-wing mistaken notion that kingdom is what happens outside the church, that kingdom is something bigger (and therefore other) than church, etc.. My view is traditionally anabaptist on this one. The local church is called to be am embodiment of kingdom realities. But kingdom realities only applies those ecclesial actions.

To listen, watch or download Scot McKights lectures at Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary click HERE

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Second Sunday After Pentecost

Collect for the Day
Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us and not what we deserve; and, as you have called us to your service, make us worthy of our calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Exodus 32:1-14
2 Corinthians 12:2-9
John 2:1-12

Message: “Allowed to Make a Difference” by Rev. Steve Breedlove
(Check back soon for sermon audio!)

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Trinity Sunday

Collect of the Day
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

Message by David Hyman (sermon audio coming soon!)

Extra Note:
Today, David Hyman shared with us the story of Holy Trinity – Chatham and how a group from All Saints Church is responding to a call to plant a faithful Anglican church close by in Chatham County. We are excited about what God is doing through Holy Trinity to address the deep longings for Christ in that community but we are also aware of the many challenges that face this group as they seek to break new ground for the Gospel. Would you consider supporting them through earnest and consistent prayer – particularly during this crucial early season of planting? Become a Praying Friend of Holy Trinity by sending an email to prayer@holytrinitychatham.org. You can read more here (and feel free to check out the rest of the site).

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Pentecost Sunday

Collect of the Day
Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 36:22-27
Acts 1:1-11
John 16:4b-15

Message: “In the Spirit of Jesus” by Rev. Steve Breedlove
(Check back soon for sermon audio!)

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

Collect of the Day
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Exodus 19:1-6
Colossians 1:21-29
Matthew 28:16-20

Message: “For the Life of the World” by Rev. Steve Breedlove
(Check back soon for sermon audio!)

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