Sermon: Absalom Jones



Prior to the Revolutionary War, our denomination and the Methodist were still a part of the Church of England, so all the clergy, whether they practiced as a Methodist or not, were also a part of the Church of England. However, during the war, it became very unpopular to be associated with anything English, and so many of the Anglican / Church of England clergy fled back to England or to Canada. This left a void in the colonies, because there were so few priest who could provide the sacraments; therefore, some of the Methodist who opted to remain in the colonies—in the words of an Anglican priest—began, “to ordain themselves and make priests of one another. This I remember,” he recalls, “they called a step—but I considered it a prodigious stride; a most unwarrantable usurpation, and a flagrant violation of all order.” He didn’t like it, but this set into motion the eventual formation of the Methodist Church as a separate denomination in 1795.

In the midst of all this, a former African slave, Absalom Jones, and his friend, Richard Allen, began ministering to the needs of the black population of Philadelphia, utilizing St. George’s Church as home base. They were successful… too successful in the eyes of the white members, who eventually forced the black congregation to sit in a section of the balcony. However, one day, Absalom and Richard sat in the wrong section and were forcibly removed, so they left St. George’s and took the entire black congregation with them. They went on to form the Free African Society. At the same time, the Church of England in America was breaking away and in 1789, became the Episcopal Church. So, the Free African Society was a part of the Episcopal Church as were the Methodist, but just to make sure you’re thoroughly confused now, this is also the time when the Methodist began their formal break from the Church of England and from the Episcopal Church, once again, leaving everyone to decide who’s side the would join: the Methodist Church or the Episcopal Church.

The Free African Society also had to decide, but even here there was a split. Richard Allen wanted to stay with the Methodist and Absalom Jones wanted to go with the Episcopal. They agreed to go their separate ways on this decision, but continued to work together.

All of this left Absalom Jones in charge of the Free African Society. So he petitioned the Episcopal Church to become a church of the denomination and this was granted. The following year, he was ordained a deacon and in 1802 he was priested. The first black priest in the Episcopal Church. He remained a priest at the church that was formed, St. Thomas’, and while there, doubled the size of the congregation and baptized 1,195 individuals.

Also of interest: Richard Allen would eventually leave the Methodist Church with several members, along with a few members from Absalom Jones’ Episcopal Church and go on to form the first African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, the denomination of our friends over at St. Stephen’s.

Clear as mud?

Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Given the amount of fracturing we see in the Church, you would think that we don’t do a very good job at loving one another, but running through the veins of every denomination is the blood of Christ. We may appear different in so many ways, from the color of our skin to the ways we worship, but together, we are The Church, the mystical Body of Christ.

Sermon: Epiphany 5 RCL C – “Words”



The podcast is available here.

A lawyer had a wife and twelve children and needed to move as his rental agreement was coming to an end for the home where he lived, however he was having a difficult finding a new home.
 
When he said he had twelve children, no one would rent to him because they were afraid that with so many children the home would be destroyed. He could not say that he had no children, he could not lie, after all, lawyers cannot and do not lie.
 
So, he had an idea. He sent his wife for a walk to the cemetery with eleven of his children. He then took the remaining one child with him to see homes with the Real Estate Agent.
 
He liked one of the homes and the agent asked, “How many children do you have?”
 
He answered, “Twelve.”
 
The agent asked “Where are the other eleven?”
 
With a sad look, the Lawyer answered, “They are in the cemetery with their mother.”
 
And that’s the way he was able to rent a home for his family without lying.

Nathaniel Hawthorne writes, “Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them!”

I want to talk about one particular word: if, but before I get there, I have to give you the backstory and why this word is important to us.

John’s Gospel seems to indicate to us that Jesus, walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, saw Peter, and called him, to which Peter dropped everything and followed Jesus. However, Luke provides us with a good bit more detail of their meeting.

We know that Jesus was going from place to place preaching in the various synagogues and at some point he came to the synagogue in Capernaum. Peter was from Bethsaida, but he lived in Capernaum, and given that he was Jewish, it is very likely that he attended the synagogue there (at the time there was only one). Given that Jesus will very soon go and stay at Peter’s house, it stands to reason that Peter would have heard Jesus preaching in the synagogue and would have witnessed the healings and the casting out of demons—which came out screaming at Jesus, “You are the Son of God.”— that Jesus was accomplishing.

Leaving the synagogue, Jesus then goes to Simon Peter’s house where he healed Peter’s mother-in-law (I’m sorry, I can’t help myself: Why did Peter deny Jesus three times? Because Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Moving on….). That night, while at Peter’s house, many more were brought to Jesus and were healed. Again, Peter was witness to all these things. Later that night Jesus goes off to a quiet place to pray, but the people find him and want him to continue performing miracles so they try and hold him, but Jesus says, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” He leaves, and scripture says, “He continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.” This is where our Gospel reading picks up. We don’t know how much time has passed, but Jesus is clearly walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum, because Peter and his fishing crew are there on the beach tending their nets after having fished all night.

The people, learning that Jesus was there begin to gather, so much so that he is unable to speak to them properly. To solve the problem, Jesus used Peter’s boat to go a short ways from shore and then began to teach. That sounds a bit unusual, but near Capernaum, there are a number of small inlets that form these perfect amphitheaters, so it would have been possible for Jesus, a short ways from the shore, to have been heard by everyone present, even while speaking in a normal voice. After teaching, he tells Peter to go out to the deep water and cast the nets. Peter’s response, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” And there’s our word: if. “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve preached on this text, but I’ve always interpreted this text and read that “if” in the same way. How does that look? Peter is saying, Look, Jesus, you don’t know anything about fishing. I do. My father was a fisherman and my father’s father was a fishermen. In fact, we’re fisherman all the way back to Adam, so you really don’t know what the heck you’re talking about, but look—he’s almost whining at this point, because he’s tired and he wants to go home, put his feet up, and have a nice kosher brewsky—if you want us to go out again, we’ll go out, but preacher man, its pointless. However, after spending some more time with this text, I think that is an entirely inaccurate picture. And you know what? I’ma tell you why.

Peter has heard Jesus preach. Peter witnessed first hand the healing of his mother-in-law. Peter saw many other healings and heard the demons coming out shrieking, “You are the Son of God.” Peter did not say, “Hey, preacher man, you ain’t no fisherman and you don’t have a clue what you’re asking.” So, what did Peter mean when he said, “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” For starters, and it is curious, but the version of the Bible we use for our readings, NRSV—New Revised Standard Version—is about the only version that includes that “if.” And, if you go back and look at the original Greek, it is not there. Instead, most of the other versions say, “At your word I will let down the nets.” Maybe this is just me being tedious this week, but for me, there is a heck of a difference between, “If you say so” and “At your word.” If, to me, implies contingencies, options, a way out. Not only that, it also suggests that you begrudge the one asking. “At your word” implies great faith in the one who is giving instruction. For Peter, “At your word,” says, I have heard the preaching and seen the miracles, there is no doubt, and the great catch of fish was the final piece to Peter not only having faith in Jesus, but beginning to truly understand what he would later be able to confess and articulate: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Now, again, you may think I’m making a big deal out of one little word, but here’s the thing, I think we like the word “if.” Why? For the same reasons I stated a moment ago. “If” gives us contingencies, options, a way out, and at times, it can state our displeasure at being asked.

I told you a few weeks back that my superhero would be Roland Deschain from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. At one point in book five, Roland is making plans with Father Callahan. Roland asked if Father Callahan thought the plan would work. Callahan responded, “Mayhap. If all goes well.” Roland’s response, “If… An old teacher of mine used to call it the only word a thousand letters long.”

Jesus asks us to do things—whatever they may be—in the same manner that he asked Peter, and we can say to Jesus, “If you say so,” and in saying that, we are conveying a clear message, I’m keeping my options open in the event I need a way out, and oh, by the way, I’m not too pleased with being asked. But, now, try it the other way: Jesus asks you do do something and you respond, “At your word,” and without hesitation you act. Through your faith in the one speaking to you, you do not need options or a way out, and through your love and obedience to your Savior, you respond to his request.

Like Peter, you have heard the teachings of Jesus and you have witnessed the miracles in lives changed. When he comes to you, he is not a stranger, he is the bridegroom approaching the bride, and he knows you just as intimately. When he asks, whatever he asks, say to him, “At your word I will do as you ask.”

The Lord declares:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

We are the instruments of his hand, and through his word and our actions, his works are accomplished.

Let us pray: We adore You, O God, present in the holy Eucharist, as our Creator, our Preserver, and our Redeemer. We offer You all that we have, all that we are, and all that depends on us; we offer You our minds to think of You, our hearts to love You; our wills to serve You; our bodies to labour and suffer for Your love. We are Yours, we give ourselves; we consecrate ourselves to You, We abandon ourselves to You, we wish to live and die for love of You. Amen.

Sermon: Epiphany 4 RCL C – “Magic”

The podcast is available here.



Thibodeaux and Boudreaux entered a chocolate store. As they were looking at the candy, Thibodeaux stole three chocolate bars. When they left the store Thibodeaux said to Boudreaux, “I’m the best thief, I stole three chocolate bars and no one saw me put them in my pocket. You can’t beat that.”

Boudreaux replied: “You want to see something better? Let’s go back to the shop and I’ll show you real stealing. I’ll steal while the shopkeeper is watching me and he won’t even know.”
So they went to the counter and Boudreaux said to the shopkeeper: “Do you want to see a great magic trick?” The shopkeeper replied: “Yes” Boudreaux said: “Give me three chocolate bars.” The shopkeeper gave him three chocolate bars and Boudreaux ate all three. The shopkeeper asked: “But where’s the magic in that?”

Boudreaux replied: “Look in Thibodeaux’s pocket.”

My twelve-year-old mind still loves magic. I like to pull up the Youtube videos and watch the street magicians and see the reactions of those watching. Even those funny videos with folks hiding behind a blanket with their pets watching, then ducking out of site when the blanket is dropped. The cats could care less, but the dogs… priceless.

David Blaine, one of those Harry Houdini amazing magicians who started out as a street magician says, “Magic is not about having a puzzle to solve. It’s about creating a moment of awe and astonishment. And that can be a beautiful thing.” I like that, because it says that we don’t have to know how to pull a rabbit out of a hat in order to create magic, we simply need to participate in or be witnesses to “a moment of awe and astonishment.” Therefore, watching two people fall in love is not magic, but it is magical… just ask them. The birth of a child is the same, and even our gathering here today is magical, in that we come together with all our many histories, hopes, dreams, troubles, etc., but in spite of all these differences, we come together as a family in worship of the One True God. That is not magic, but it is truly magical in the picture that it creates… especially if we photoshop a few of you out!

Leading up to Jesus’ public ministry, which we are reading about now in our Gospel these past few Sundays, Jesus was preparing. He didn’t just walk on the scene and miraculously know all the Hebrew Scriptures. He had to study. And one of the greatest evidences of this study came at his temptation in the desert. Three times the devil came to him.

“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

The devil showed him all the peoples and kingdoms of this world and said, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please.  If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,” from the pinnacle of the Temple.

In response to temptation one, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3. Temptation number two is put down with Deuteronomy 6:13 and number three receives Deuteronomy 6:16.

In the temptation in the desert, the devil came to Jesus and said, “Hey, Jesus, give us a magic trick.” In response, Jesus said, “Hey, stupid, if God wants magic tricks, he’ll read Harry Potter.”

Jesus did not come to perform magic tricks, God had something completely different in mind, and it would create “awe and astonishment,” but it was not magic.

Today, in our Gospel reading, Jesus is in his hometown, Nazareth. He has gone into the Temple and read from the Scroll of Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” Then he says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The people are amazed, because they know him as Joe’s boy, but something in the way they are responding allows Jesus to discern their true motives, so he says to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” Put another way, Jesus said to them, “Doubtless you will ask me to turn stones into bread, to perform acts of God like in the days of Moses, or to show some other sign of power… of magic.” Jesus discerned that the people would ask of him, would tempt him in the same manner as the devil did in the desert, but just like with the devil, Jesus tells them that God has something entirely different in mind, and he does so by reminding them of two events in their history.

The first story comes from the First Book of Kings and the next is from the Second Book of Kings. In the first Jesus reminds the people that during a great famine, of all the people God could choose to miraculously feed, he did not choose a Jewish person, he chose a Gentile, the “widow at Zarephath in Sidon.” In the second incident, Jesus reminds them of all the lepers God could have chosen to heal, again he did not choose a Jew, he chose “Naaman the Syrian.” Not only was Naaman a Gentile, but a Syrian, a true enemy of Israel. That would be like someone from the Las Angeles Rams intentionally scoring points for the New England Patriots. And just like the Rams fans would want to tear apart that player, the people wanted to tear apart Jesus for reminding them and insulting them in such a way, but what it came down to was that Jesus was saying to them, “This isn’t about magic tricks and it is not about only you the Jews, this is about everyone, and I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people to myself.”

When they thought Jesus would perform a few magic tricks for them, they were more than pleased with him, but they did not want to hear about this new thing that God was doing and they certainly did not want to be reminded of their past failures, so instead of humbly receiving Jesus’ rebuke, they tried to throw him off a cliff.

My twelve-year-old mind still loves magic and everyday I am guilty of asking Jesus to perform some magic for me and when he tells me no, and that instead he wants me to cast aside my earthly desires in exchange for his holiness… well, to be honest, my twelve-year-old mind sometimes pitches a tantrum. I want the rabbit. Jesus wants my life. Not so that he can mark one more point up for the team or rule over me with an iron fist, but so that he can transform me into his likeness: holy and eternal.

My friend Thomas à Kempis writes, “The world, which promises small and passing things, is served with great eagerness: I – Jesus – promise great and eternal things and the hearts of men grow dull… for a small gain they travel far; for eternal life many will scarcely lift a foot from the ground. They seek a petty reward, and sometimes fight shamefully in law courts for a single piece of money. They are not afraid to work day and night for a trifle or an empty promise. But, for an unchanging good, for a reward beyond estimate, for the greatest honor and for glory everlasting, it must be said to their shame that men begrudge even the least fatigue.”

Put another way, we love the magic tricks whether they come from the world or the Lord and we will go to great lengths to receive our share of all the rabbits pulled from the hat, but what the Lord is offering is quite different. What the Lord offers does not vanish in a puff of smoke. It is eternal, but often times requires us to set aside our pride and recognize that his ways are not our ways and that in order to follow him, we are the ones that must change.

When you truly listen to Jesus with your heart, he will quite often tell you things that you don’t want to hear. Listen to him anyways and heed his words, remembering the words of the Psalmist: “Happy are those whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law.” Listen to him and heed his words, and in “a moment of awe and astonishment,” if you allow it, the Lord will transform you. And that can be a beautiful thing.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, we offer you our thoughts: to be fixed on you; our words: to have you for their theme; our actions: to reflect our love for you; our sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory. We want to do what you ask of us: In the way you ask, for as long as you ask, because you ask it. Lord, enlighten our understanding, strengthen our will, purify our hearts, and make us holy. Help us to repent of our past sins and to resist temptation in the future. Help us to rise above our human weaknesses and to grow stronger as your sons and daughters. Amen.

Sermon: Epiphany 3 RCL C – Heroic Hearts


The podcast is available here.



Last weekend, while at a retreat for the search and nomination process for the next Bishop, they asked us who our spiritual heroes were.  I didn’t even have to think about it and you all know them by now: Archbishop Michael Ramsey, Thomas à Kempis, and St. Josemaría Escrivá.  But that conversation got me to thinking about heroes.

If I had to choose a superhero – and I’m not entirely sure if he is classified as a superhero – I would go with Roland Deschain, the gunslinger in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.  But when it comes right down to real people for a hero, I have to go with those who place themselves in mortal danger while protecting others.  There are the firemen, police, rescue workers, but the one that came to my mind first was the soldier.  And some soldiers have such a heroic heart that they inspire those around them, even when all seems lost.

There was Marine commander who was once surrounded and the chances of survival weren’t good, but he shouts to his men, “All right. They’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us … They can’t get away this time.”  To which he added, “Now we can shoot at them from every direction.” 

A few millennia before, King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans stood up against 150,000 Persians led by Xerxes.  Before the battle commenced, Xerxes sent an envoy to Leonidas to try and convince him to surrender.  The Persian envoy told Leonidas, “Our archers are so numerous, that the flight of their arrows darkens the sun.”  Responding to the envoy, Leonidas said, “So much the better, for we shall fight them in the shade.”  Leonidas was under no delusion as to how this battle was going to end, but he, like that Marine commander,  had a hero’s heart.

So, how do we define a hero?  Felix Adler, an American Jewish leader provides us with a pretty good definition: “The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for all to see by.”  That is what the Marine and Leonidas and so many others have accomplished.  They provided a light, a rallying point and a direction for those around them.  The same is true for our Gospel reading today.  Jesus set up five blazing torches in this dark world as rallying points that give direction to all who see them.  

He returned to the region of Galilee and began teaching in the synagogues and on a particular day, he retrieved the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah and read from it:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Returning the scroll to its place he declared, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Those five blazing torches of his mission and ministry were set: 1) bring good news of the Gospel to the poor, 2) proclaim release to those captive to sin, 3) give sight to those who could no longer see God in the midst of a broken religious system, 4) set them free so that they might experience and share the joy and love of the Lord, and 5) proclaim to the people, “You are God’s beloved children and he desires you.”  And then he said that on this day, these things have been fulfilled.  Not “might be,” “could be,” “if your good little boys and girls then may be,” but have been fulfilled.  Done.  And like the Marine Commander and Leonidas, these torches were set by Jesus, not just as a guide for himself, they were set “in the dark streets of life for men to see by.”  They were set as a guide for us, for our mission and ministry.

So often we read that passage from our Gospel and think that it is solely about Jesus, but remember his words to us, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”  We now are the ones who are to bring the Good News, proclaim release from sin, give sight to the blind, show freedom in Christ, and through our words and actions let a dark world know that they are the beloved children of the Living God.  We are to be the ones with the hero’s heart and continue the work of Jesus, by setting out these same blazing torches.  And with one voice, we all declare, “I ain’t no hero”… but you are.

From way back in my education comes Homer’s Iliad and OdysseyIliad focuses on the Trojan War and the fall of Troy and the Odyssey covers the ten year journey home of Odysseus, also known as Ulysses, the King of Ithaca.  You may recall he encountered the sirens and the cyclops and had all sorts of other grand adventures.  After returning home and killing off a few enemies that have risen up in his absence, he is restored as king.  It is from here that the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson decided to pick up the story in his poem, Ulysses.

Now, I would like for you all to actually believe that I sit around reading Homer and Tennyson for pleasure, but the truth is, I heard a snippet of Ulysses in an episode of Frasier and decided to read it.  In the poem, Ulysses is king, but much older and unhappy.  He wants to explore again as he did in his youth, so in the end of the poem he calls to his friends: 

Come, my friends, 

‘T is not too late to seek a newer world… 

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down: 

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles, 

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew. 

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’ 

We are not now that strength which in old days 

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; 

One equal temper of heroic hearts, 

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Perhaps we aren’t heroes and we certainly aren’t Jesus, “that which we are, we are,” but we are not relying on ourselves for our courage.  That comes from God alone.  St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”  We may not have been born heroes, but as a gift from God, we have been given this Spirit, these heroic hearts so that for the Kingdom of God, we are able to “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”  As the beloved children of God, we can say with the Psalmist, “With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me?”

The story is told of a group of people in Kansas who after a long drought came together to pray for rain.  As they met, they discovered only one young girl had brought an umbrella with her.  With our heroic hearts, we are the ones that bring umbrellas when we pray for rain.  With our heroic hearts, we are not afraid to stand before the nations, shining the light of Christ.

After all this talk of heroic hearts, I’m almost afraid to do this, but I want to change the vocabulary.  Because you see, instead of having “heroic hearts,” we should desire “saintly hearts.”  Why?  Felix Adler, who gave us the definition of a hero: “The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for all to see by.”  But then he adds, “The saint is the person who walks through the dark paths of the world, themselves a light.”  Therefore, you do not simply have heroic hearts, you have saintly hearts, because as Jesus says, “You are the light of the world,”

With your your saintly heart burning brightly and strong in will, strive to seek and follow the Lord, to find the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed, and do not yield to the enemies of God, even if you have to fight in the shade of their arrows, for this is the year of the Lord’s favor and in Jesus you have seen the Lord’s word fulfilled.

Let us pray: O Lord, You have mercy on all, take away from us our sins, and mercifully set us ablaze with the fire of Your Holy Spirit.  Take away from us the hearts of stone, and give us a human heart, a heart to love and adore You, a heart to delight in You, to follow and enjoy You.  Amen.

Sermon: The Conversion of St. Paul

The podcast is available here.


The Conversion of St. Paul by Caravaggio

The sixth chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah begins: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.”  He goes on to describe the angels in attendance who were singing:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory.”

However, because he had seen the Lord (no one can see the Lord and live), he cried out: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”  Then he reports, “One of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.  The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”  And he said, “Go….”  And Isaiah went to the Israelites as the Lord commanded him.

Although Paul’s encounter with the Lord was different, it was also very similar.  The great light and glory of the Lord appeared around him and he fell to the ground in fear.  However, unlike the message that Isaiah was given, Paul was told to go to the Gentiles and proclaim the Good News, “to  open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”  In a very real way, the Lord said to Paul the exact same words as he spoke to Isaiah: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And Isaiah said and Paul said and so many others have said, “Here am I; send me!”

From the beginning, God has been calling all people back into relationship and making that relationship possible and eternal through Jesus, the only begotten Son.  This is a message that you have all heard and responded to.  The Lord called and you responded, but there is more, for Jesus also said to us, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Jesus is asking… he is asking us, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  For a variety of reasons, that can be a scary question to answer, because we do not know where it will lead or who it will lead us to.  And to my knowledge, there is really only one way to overcome the reasons and the fears and that is to have a passion for souls.  Without any judgment, to look at them, to love them, and to desire eternal life for them.  This passion for souls is one that is always seeking ways to reveal God to those who are lost or broken or simply unaware of his great love for them.  And it is a passion that must burn brightly and therefore must always be tended, nourished with the Word of God, prayer, and the blessed sacrament of the Eucharist.  Build up within yourself this passion for souls, and when the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  Say with Isaiah and with Paul, “Here am I, send me!”

Sermon: St. Antony

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The podcast is available here.



“As we have received the soul as a deposit, let us preserve it for the Lord, that he may recognize His work as being the same as He made it.”  If one sentence had to describe the life goal of St. Antony, the above, written by St. Athanasius in his Life of Antony, would fall far short, but would provide us with at least a gleaning.  The verse that inspired such a life is Matthew 19:21 which states, “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.’”  Or, as we read today from Mark’s Gospel when the rich young man asked what he must do to inherit eternal life.  “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 

Antony was born in the early third century to a well-to-do family.  When he was twenty, his parents died leaving him a substantial inheritance and a younger sister to care for, but upon hearing those commands of Jesus to sell everything, he obeyed.  He immediately sold all of his possessions and gave it all away except for the few things that he and sister would need.  Upon hearing more of the words of Jesus, “therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself,” he gave away all that was remaining and placed his sister in a convent. 

That is not a calling to everyone, but it is should certainly serve as a reminder.  A reminder that all we have, including our very souls, belongs to God.  So, what belongs to God should be cared for by us.  As St. Paul declared to his young apprentice Timothy, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you– guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”  

Antony was one who guarded his soul, yet even after taking to the desert to live a solitary life the devil came after it.  St. Athanasius wrote, “the enemy, who hates good… called together his hounds and burst forth… in the night they made such a din that the whole of that place seemed to be shaken by an earthquake, and the demons as if breaking the four walls of the dwelling seemed to enter through them, coming in the likeness of beasts and creeping things. And the place was on a sudden filled with the forms of lions, bears, leopards, bulls, serpents, asps, scorpions, and wolves, and each of them was moving according to his nature… Antony, stricken and goaded by them, felt bodily pains … but his mind was clear, and as in mockery he said, ‘If there had been any power in you, it would have sufficed had one of you come.”

Therefore, not only does Antony remind us that everything, including our souls, belongs to God, but he also shows us that we must actively engage in the protection of that “good deposit.”  So the question for us is: How are we guarding the soul that is within us?  Do we expose it to things that might harm it, or are we vigilant in placing a shield around it?  We can’t place ourselves in the midst of those things that harm the soul and expect to walk away unsoiled, “If you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change.  The devil changes you.”  So, like Antony, guard your soul and put up a fight for it when you have to.  It is the Lord’s possession.  

Sermon: St. Antony

The podcast is available here.



“As we have received the soul as a deposit, let us preserve it for the Lord, that he may recognize His work as being the same as He made it.”  If one sentence had to describe the life goal of St. Antony, the above, written by St. Athanasius in his Life of Antony, would fall far short, but would provide us with at least a gleaning.  The verse that inspired such a life is Matthew 19:21 which states, “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.’”  Or, as we read today from Mark’s Gospel when the rich young man asked what he must do to inherit eternal life.  “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 

Antony was born in the early third century to a well-to-do family.  When he was twenty, his parents died leaving him a substantial inheritance and a younger sister to care for, but upon hearing those commands of Jesus to sell everything, he obeyed.  He immediately sold all of his possessions and gave it all away except for the few things that he and sister would need.  Upon hearing more of the words of Jesus, “therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself,” he gave away all that was remaining and placed his sister in a convent. 

That is not a calling to everyone, but it is should certainly serve as a reminder.  A reminder that all we have, including our very souls, belongs to God.  So, what belongs to God should be cared for by us.  As St. Paul declared to his young apprentice Timothy, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you– guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”  

Antony was one who guarded his soul, yet even after taking to the desert to live a solitary life the devil came after it.  St. Athanasius wrote, “the enemy, who hates good… called together his hounds and burst forth… in the night they made such a din that the whole of that place seemed to be shaken by an earthquake, and the demons as if breaking the four walls of the dwelling seemed to enter through them, coming in the likeness of beasts and creeping things. And the place was on a sudden filled with the forms of lions, bears, leopards, bulls, serpents, asps, scorpions, and wolves, and each of them was moving according to his nature… Antony, stricken and goaded by them, felt bodily pains … but his mind was clear, and as in mockery he said, ‘If there had been any power in you, it would have sufficed had one of you come.”

Therefore, not only does Antony remind us that everything, including our souls, belongs to God, but he also shows us that we must actively engage in the protection of that “good deposit.”  So the question for us is: How are we guarding the soul that is within us?  Do we expose it to things that might harm it, or are we vigilant in placing a shield around it?  We can’t place ourselves in the midst of those things that harm the soul and expect to walk away unsoiled, “If you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change.  The devil changes you.”  So, like Antony, guard your soul and put up a fight for it when you have to.  It is the Lord’s possession.