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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

LUX

                 LUX
                                                       
                                                                                  Fears  abound,
                                                                                  Varied shapes.
                                                                                  Problems real,
                                                                                  Or  just imagined?

                                                                                  Chaos reigns
                                                                                  In hearts of men,
                                                                                  No moral compass,
                                                                                  No evening star

                                                                                  Would that Dawn
                                                                                  Will come again,
                                                                                  Light so pure,                                                                                                                        And Heat so real.

                                                                                   Light that sheds
                                                                                   Its healing rays,
                                                                                   None is safe
                                                                                   From darkling stealth

                                                                                   Then, new Day
                                                                                   Will appear,
                                                                                   Certain, clean,
                                                                                   And unafraid.
                       
                                                                                        -S.E.S. 
Epiphany 2014
                                                                                       

                                                                                                                        

Voca Me Domine

 Voca Me, Domine

Heaven’s call, heard not by all,
Yet universal, shines within my soul,
A globe of light making whole
Flawed vessels’ dark total

The hounds of Heaven bay apace
Insistent, soft, not fierce,
Rein’d by that Hand once-pierced
By Hatred’s florid face

O gracious call!  Who can resist?
Such loving Will that draws
My once-confused, tangled maws
Deeply to Thy Christ

Once answered, peace ensues,
Yet, “strife within the sod”,
Perfection opts not within this mod,
High treasure, always woo’d 

The Feast, the Lamb hath beckon’d
To nuptials now directed,
Upon that Perfect Day elected,
By Him, through Him, long reckon’d

-S.E.S.
Trinitytide, 2006


Easter Paen

Easter Paean

O King of Life Eternal!
O Victim Royal, Sublime
Who gives Thyself for Offering
And makes me wholly Thine
Accept even now our praises
Given to Thy holy Name
O Priest, O King Eternal
Oblation without blame

Who shone before all worlds
Took form or had their shape
The Light that lightest all men
Came down, didst manhood take
O Logos, Word Incarnate
Men’s hate could not Thee bind
(but) Cast off Death’s cold shackles
And mortality confined

Now reign, O Lord almighty
O Blessed One in Three
To the Trinity be Glory
As is forever meet
O Dayspring from on high
Shine on our soiled face
And now, from Thy Great Kindness
Bestow us with Thy Grace


Rev. Stephen E. Stults
Eastertide, 2009
                       
(May be set to the tune of “O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded”)




Proof

 Proof

Proof the World demands, as tokens
Of Thy Love and Presence,
Show us Thy Face!
Give us a sign!
We would see Christ

Not made by Thee, (man says) but hatch’d
From natural stuff and such,
Primate folk are we;
The Missing Link laughs
And beats his stump

O Man, so glorious, so arrogant,
“Fools and slow of heart!”
Ought not Man believe
That Christ suffered once,
Now wrapped in Glory?

Yea, and more than a man
This Jesus, dual-natured One;
God, bound for Heaven
Leads our captivity captive,
Man, no longer moribund

-S.E.S.
Trinitytide, 2006


Birth of Days

Birth of Days

                                                Glory be to Thee, O Lord!               
                                      Author of Time, Master of endlessness,
                                                King of Created and Begotten
                                                To Thee all things bow

                                                Tempus, that earthly tyrant proud,
                                                Pays obeisance, powerful to Man
                                                The hourglass of his life,
                                                Yet indifferent to Thee

                                                Above, the Days unbirthed stand
                                                Before Thee as endless rows of wheat,
                                                Waving in silent adoration
                                                Touched by winds of eternity

                                                Singly now, kneeling before Thee,
                                                Dispatched gladly, bound for Earth,
                                                Proxies bright of the Great Creation
                                                Testimonies of its birth

                                                Tied to them, Man trudges onward
                        `                       Towards his heavenly hermitage,
                                                While Time, adamant and unflinching,
                                                Marks the progress of his trek

                                                                                    -S.E.S.+
                                                                                    Epiphanytide, 2005    
                                                                       
                                               


                                                            

Behold Emmanuel!

The Rev’d. Stephen E. Stults
Second Sunday after the Epiphany
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
January 19, 2014
“Behold, Emmanuel!”
Mark 1:1-3: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;  2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.  3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

It is fitting that we should read this particular Gospel selection for this Second Sunday after the Epiphany.  This is, after all, the first full Church season in the new year and the one that proclaims that the newly-born Messiah is here among us. Recall that Jesus was manifested forth to mankind twice before: once in Bethlehem as the Magi worshipped Him, and once again in Jerusalem, as he sat among the doctors and scribes, hearing them and asking them questions.

Today, we note that St. Mark, in his inimitable, brisk style, launches right into Jesus’ ministry.  He tells us briefly about John the Baptizer and how he baptized Jesus in the river Jordan. Recall that wonderful scene where Christ comes up out of the water: (Mark 1:10-11): “And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him;  11 and a voice came out of the heavens: "Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."

For additional emphasis, recall the same passage from St. Matthew, which occurred when Christ came to John for baptism: (Matthew 3:13-15) “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.  14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?  15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.” Matthew then relates the same appearance of the Holy Spirit in bodily form alighting on Jesus. This is, of course, the first evidence that Christ came not to destroy the Law, but rather to fulfill it.  It also highlights how utterly false the Jews’ accusations were against him, as they wanted, desperately, to see him as an enemy to Judaism.

What are we to make of this? Is it “just” another amazing theophany that we witness through the testimony of the Word Written?  It is “just” another affirmation of our faith, as we read about God the Father speaking audibly to us, as he affirms his love for the Son?  Is it a proclamation of the Holy Trinity, as we see, in one scene, all three Members of the Holy Trinity highlighted in stark relief? First, we have the Son, being baptized, then we see the Holy Spirit alighting upon him in bodily form, while God the Father speaks about His Son. We believe that a clearer example of, and witness to, the Trinity would be difficult to find.

Beloved, we should make note of all these things. This passage contains all of these important items, yet with one, all-important, encompassing theme: they all point to the Christ.  Note that Mark uses the prophecy of Isaiah to introduce John the Baptizer, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.  3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.[1]  Thus, with single-minded focus, Christ is the emphasis and center of this passage, just as He is the emphasis and focus of Epiphany. He is shown forth, and He is manifested to us in this Epiphanytide. With that fact presented to us, we ask again, what are we to make of this? In short, how are we to regard Epiphany and, what difference can it make it our lives?

To answer that question, we must turn and consider the very nature of God Himself and our relationship to Him. Of course, we all are familiar with the attributes of God, the so-called “three Big O’s”: Omniscience, Omnipotence, and Omnipresence. We know that He is all-knowing, all-powerful and always present. Perhaps we could add another great “O” to the list by saying that He is Overwhelming Love as well.  After all, St John tells us in 1 John 4:16: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”  While this is obvious to all of us, perhaps its ramifications are not as obvious in regards to Epiphany and our attitude towards it.

When we consider the love of God, my own mind always flies back to the concept of forgiveness and its attendant virtue, restoration.  True love always forgives a fault, when it is sought with sincerity and true repentance. It also provides for restoration, or the putting of one back in the place where one was before the fault. This is the most genuine and the most absolute love possible. We all know how difficult it is to have a normal relationship with someone who has wronged us in the past. Yet, this is exactly what God the Holy Trinity does, every time we sin, repent, and seek amendment of life. In a blessed community of forgiveness, The Holy Spirit facilitates our prayers, the Blessed Son intercedes for us, and the Holy Father hears our pleas.
Through the blessed mercy and overwhelming love of God, we are forgiven and we are restored.

Can we not see the Epiphany Season in the same light?  That is, what is the point of Epiphany if not to point to Jesus, which in turn points to our eternal blessedness in God? In this light, Epiphany becomes something not trivial, as a mere passage of time, but something more meaningful, even momentous for our lives.

We say this because Epiphany offers us something new and something fresh. That something is simply this: a new beginning in Christ. It is simply too easy, when we are burdened with the various troubles and vicissitudes of this life, with all the daily bothersome details of life, as well as its very real trials and tribulations, to remember what we ultimately are: new creatures in Christ and the Children of God. 

Forgive me if this sounds too pat, too well-worn, and perhaps just said too many times. Yet, with all the integrity of the Holy Trinity and with all the truth of God behind this statement, let me proclaim it again unto you. We Christians are blessed to be the Children of God in every sense of the word. We are not the slaves of God, nor are we merely the lowly and subservient subjects of a great King.  No, we are something different.  We are children, members of the royal household and thus inheritors of our Father’s Kingdom.  You parents think of how much you love your own children and then multiply that by infinity, if you can.  That is how much Our Father loves those who love Him.  It is how much He loves us, his blessed children in Christ.

Putting this in context with Epiphany, it is God’s Love that we celebrate this Epiphany Season. It is God’s Love that sent us our Emmanuel, our Intercessor, and our eternal Friend.  It is God’s Love, through Christ, that makes possible our repeated forgiveness and restoration. It is God’s Love that makes possible our status as Children of God.

Finally, putting this in practical terms, how do we celebrate the Epiphany Season this year?
What can we do to make a new start, to put a fresh face on our faith this year? 

We will submit to you that it comes down to renewing and refreshing our relationship to God.  We do this by seeking God’s Face in prayer, meditation, and worship.  We do this first by engaging in daily morning and evening prayer in our respective homes. In so doing, let us bathe our homes in prayer and in reading of the Holy Scriptures day and night.  Secondly, let us continue to be faithful in our attendance at corporate worship, which is, after all, the most powerful form of prayer, as we ingest the Blessed Sacrament at mass. Third, let us seek for the recognition of God’s continual Presence in our lives, every moment of every day. Let us, as much as possible, pray without ceasing, in the words of St. Paul.  Better said, let our lives be a continual prayer unto God as we seek Him through all our activities, every day. In so doing, we will indeed be” a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service”, from Romans 12: 1.

When we do this, we will find a greater joy and a greater sense of purpose than ever before, because it is only in Christ that we find our true purpose. 

For a truly succinct answer, let us recall this simple question and answer from the Catechism, found in our Book of Common Prayer:

Question: What is thy duty towards God?

Answer. My duty towards God is To believe in him, to fear him, And to love him with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength: To worship him, to give him thanks: To put my whole trust in him, to call upon him: To honour his holy Name and his Word: And to serve him truly all the days of my life.     

If we can fulfill this duty, we shall be a happy and productive people.

Epiphany is the beginning of this fulfillment, one that we should embrace and celebrate, every day of our earthly lives.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.   AMEN.



[1] Mark 1:2-3

Sunday, December 15, 2013

“Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”

3rd Sunday in Advent, 2013

Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Barnabus Anglican Church
December 15, 2013

“Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”  From the Gospel for
today, this is the question that John the Baptist had his disciples ask Jesus.
Recall that at this time, he was a guest of the local Herodian government, although we can rightly guess that his accommodations were hardly satisfactory…

I imagine that nobody in this room has ever been imprisoned. It has to be very, very hard, even if one has done the crime.  Imagine how difficult it would be if one was denied their freedom for having done the right thing, as was the case with John the Baptizer!  Recall that Herod had shut him up in prison, mainly because he criticized the king for marrying his brother’s Phillip’s wife, Herodias.  He had denounced him publicly, and rightly so.  In so doing, he also incurred Herodias’ undying hatred, which would later cause him to be beheaded.  We can observe here that an ungodly spirit, when provoked, is especially vehement in its persecution of its righteous critics.

Let us remember that this is the same John, who was imbued with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb.  Recall the passage in the first chapter of the gospel of Luke:
Luke 1:41-42  41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:  42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”

This is also the same John who, when asked by the priests and Levites if he was the Christ, the Jew’s promised  Messiah, answered in the words of John’s gospel: John 1:20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.” John refused to take any credit for himself, but instead testified of Christ, when he said: (Luke 3:16) “I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”

Finally, this is the same John, who, even after a lifetime of looking for Christ and having baptized Him in the river Jordan, asked the question, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”

Is this just the moment of doubt of some early New Testament prophet, or does it have application to us today? Might we even say that many people ask this same question, especially at this time of year.  Every year, we go through the same “culture wars” over Christmas.   The secularists fight against public displays of Christmas, and most people satisfy themselves with saying “Happy Holidays”, so that they can’t be accused of being politically incorrect.

And on and on it goes….. today is the Third Sunday in Advent. Advent, as we mentioned a couple of weeks earlier, has actually become a four-week celebration of Christmas, at least commercially and in occasions such as office parties and the like.  Many companies are having, or have had, their “Holiday Parties” already.  Of course soon, we will hear the usual mis-information about the 12 days of Christmas, which to the undiscerning public, begins on December 13 and extends until the 25th.  We have all been bombarded with Christmas (or “Holiday”) ads since before Thanksgiving, which is never a very popular holiday with the mercantile class, because they can’t commercialize it very much. 

Thus, one can see why some, maybe many people just want to get Christmas “over with.”  Of course, immediately after Christmas, the drumbeat will begin for New Years, and the World will lurch towards the parties that mostly meaningless holiday brings.

Enough….without belaboring the point, we think the reason that many folks tire of Christmas before it occurs is because they focus on the wrong things.  Celebrations, parties, gifts, trees, and decorations fill our thoughts and our efforts, crowding out the real reason for the season.  That reason, of course, is the Nativity of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He is the One of which Isaiah spoke when he said, “Isaiah 11:10: ”And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” 

The very real and valuable way to enjoy Christmas is to stay focused on the Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, True God of true God, and true Light of Light, who come into this dark world to be with us, Immanuel.  When we focus on this, to the best of our ability, and despite the commercial “clutter” around us, we Christians will still enjoy peace and “his (our) rest shall be glorious.”

We feel deeply that one of our goals as Christians should be to rest in the Lord all year round.  As we focus on the Church year and as we celebrate the major events in Christ’s earthly ministry, we will find our earthly sojourn takes on greater and greater meaning.  Life, even ordinary life, becomes more meaningful and valuable.
Let us consider this: there are five major events in the life of Christ, after which the Church has patterned her year.  These are, of course, the Incarnation, the Nativity, the Atonement, the Resurrection, and the Ascension, all of which carry special significance to us Christians, for they are the very “stuff” of which our faith is constructed.
This season we celebrate the second of these major events, the Nativity, or the First Coming of Christ. Its significance is without parallel, for now Jesus, the very Word made Flesh, has come to live as one of us.  It is not as some anti-Christian groups claim as a charge against Christianity, that we presume to think that man became God, but rather the glorious reverse.  God became man and “dwelt among us, full of grace and truth”, to quote St. John.  Thus, Christianity is very much “top down”, that is, Grace and truth flow downwards from God to man. We Christians believe that we do not dictate to God, but He to us through His Holy Word. We have not attempted to make man into God, but God has stooped to become Man.  This is important. This is fundamental and it is truly profound, for this is the real celebration of Christmas.

Let’s return to John the Baptizer for a moment. Lying in the dark in Herod’s
dungeon, perhaps chained to a wall in his dank cell, he had heard of Jesus’ mighty works from his visitors and disciples. Perhaps John sensed that his time was short. Perhaps he sensed that his mission on this earth was drawing to a close. Maybe he questioned, “Is this the one for whom I have prophesied all my life?” We don’t know. What we do know, however, from Matthew’s account was that he asked a question, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?


We know that he received his answer when Christ told the messengers: (Mat 11:4-6) “Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” Glory be to God the Father, and to God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, now and forever.   AMEN