Follow by Email

Friday, May 15, 2015

“Charity shall cover a multitude of sins…"

The Rev’d Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
 Sunday after the Ascension  

May 17, 2015

1 Peter 4:7-8 “The end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves; for charity shall cover a multitude of sins.”

So speaks the Apostle Peter from the today’s Epistle selection. Coming from arguably the most “human” and “real” Apostle, this is a wonderful and blessed statement.  After all, Peter is one figure in the New Testament with whom all of us can identify in some way or another. If one has acted boldly or brashly in their lifetime, there is Peter. If one has ever been afraid of telling the truth in the face of strong consequences, there is Peter.  And yet, if one has ever boldly proclaimed, “Thou are the Christ; thou art the Son of the living God”, there is Peter as well.

There can be no doubt that Peter became a new and better man AFTER his denial of Jesus Christ. Yet, unlike Judas Iscariot, who allowed Satan to tempt him into the absolute depths of despair, something better happened to Peter. In some mysterious way, the Holy Spirit changed him into a leader of the apostolic band, first in Jerusalem, and later in Rome. He became a pillar of the early Church, and went on to inspire and to lead his early Christian colleagues.  In short, Peter is a picture of what God can do with us, when we allow Him to do so.

Thus, it is so fitting that Peter tells us that “Charity will cover a multitude of sins…” He is not speaking of merely the relief of the poor and needy, although that is important.  No doubt he is speaking of the form of love termed “caritas” in the Greek.  Unlike the other forms of love, namely eros (romantic, sensual love), or agape (fellowship), and philios (brotherly love), caritas is something else, and may be the most interesting of all. Why might we say that?

We will submit to you that charity is more complex and many faceted than the other forms of love. The romantic will certainly disavow this, as will the socialite; even the one concerned with the betterment of mankind through brotherhood.  Yet, if we consider each of the loves just mentioned, note that all of them have some reward or end in themselves, to some degree. 
After all, the romantic seeks the possession of intimacy with the other person; while the one engaged in agape seeks fellowship  as the end of their activity.  The same goes for the one seeking to increase brotherhood and understanding. Again, there is a reward, or payback, if you will, in each of these. Not that any of this is bad; far from it.  Instead, we bless God, and exclaim, “Ecce, quam bonum!” (Behold, what a good and wonderful thing this is….)

No, what we seek to do is to distinguish the quality of love contained in caritas (charity).  Why would St. Peter tell us that it covers a multitude of sins?  Consider this: if one will accept that charity has no end in itself, no inherent payback in the same way as eros, agape, or even philos do, thus charity is more disinterested than the other forms of love. Note, please, that we said disinterested, not un-interested, for there is a huge difference. Charity seeks nothing but a benign view of all men and all situations.  It seeks not to judge harshly or rashly.  It seeks to have “unconditional positive regard” for all. 

Properly done, a charitable view frames one’s whole outlook on life and on the World. Instead of having a harsh, judgmental outlook, one will have a milder, less caustic view of his environment and those with whom he interacts. Instead of leaping to judgment or condemnation, one can “step back” and allow the Holy Spirit to temper one’s own inherent acidity.  This allows one to have a more moderate reaction to things, and perhaps even less heartburn…

When charity rules one’s heart, it leads to an expression of that virtue in one’s daily activity.  This, no doubt, makes life more pleasant for the person practicing charity, and of course, for those that person meets, who ordinarily might be on the receiving end of their scorn and denigration.  Think of all the wasted energy and stress it takes to be negative! Now, think of that same energy focused in a new, more benign direction…

We can now come closer to what the Apostle means when he says that charity will cover “the multitude of sins.”  Think of all the sins avoided when one practices, habitually, the virtue of charity. For a succinct discussion of this, we need only to recall St. Paul’s stirring recap of charity found in 1Cor 13:: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.  4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,  5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;  6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;  7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” 

It is impossible for us to top that summation.  Yet, even as St. Paul tells us about charity, he doesn’t tell us how to achieve it. When one considers Paul’s exhaustive knowledge of the failings of man, learned through hard experience on his missionary journeys, one certainly knows charity doesn’t come from the heart of Man.  There must be another source.

And so there is. As with all aspects of one’s walk with Jesus, it is one based on dependence and trust. We know how hard this is to hear and accept, we thoroughly modern and self-sufficient people; yet it is true.  We who are Christians have to continually let God form our behavior through godly submission and acceptance for His Will for our lives.  In short, without the “bridle of the Holy Spirit” on our rough and ready natures, charity is virtually impossible.

That is certainly not to say that non-Christians can’t be charitable.  That would be wrong, for we all know people, although not religious, who behave well and decently in their lives, even charitably.  What we are saying is that their source of love for mankind comes from a humanistic source, perhaps based on agape or philos, but not necessarily caritas.  Of course, being ultimately human-based, it has its limits.  True love inspired by the Holy Spirit is divine, and therefore inexhaustible.  There is a difference. 

Contrast that with the free, unlimited love of God expressed in godly charity. Herein we see the difference, for as charity moves and is expressed, more freedom occurs and more pure love is shown. As the Holy Spirit moves in our lives and we allow the love of God inside us to focus outward, the condition of the world changes, just a bit. When we really know and accept the love our Heavenly Father has for us, it has to make us more buoyant and joyful. This sense of love becomes so overwhelming that it spills out around our edges, into the world beyond. 

That is when we can begin to practice charity habitually. Then, it is not the forced smile, or the “we should be nice, because we should” syndrome.  It is real love and real charity for all we meet.  That is when charity shall cover a multitude of sins,” For we have been transformed into different people, who see love as their native state,

It doesn’t come from us. It comes from the Source and Font of all love, in all its forms.  It comes from the One who suffered the worst the World could do to him, so that He could profess the ultimate Love for it, and for us.

Corinthians 13:13 - 14:1   13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Victory and Faith

The Rev’d Stephen E. Stults
St. Barnabas Anglican Church
Easter I, 2015
April 12th, 2015

Victory and Faith

“This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith...” I John 5:4

Does the word “victory” bother you?  Does it offend you? In our modern, or as it is often termed, “post-modern” world, it does seem to bother some people.  In fact, “victory” is a term that we don’t hear very often.  On the other hand, we do hear things like “negotiated settlement”, or “phased-in withdrawal”, or “limited engagement”, but not the word “victory” very often. 

  If one doesn’t truly believe that one’s cause it just, how can one be fully committed to achieving victory?  We will submit to you that dedication to victory requires absolute sureness in the correctness of one’s position.  One reason why so many people may be uncomfortable with the concept of victory has to do with the perception of their own lack of purity.  Putting it even stronger, it has to do with their relationship with evil. Not that they are necessarily evil, it is just that in our modern world, so many of us have some ambivalence towards evil and sin. It is not that we would countenance absolute evil or gross misbehavior, but rather that our current world situation is so imbued with sin that it is very difficult to avoid contagion. For example, look at the increasing coarseness of the language in media and movies, all in the interests of “artistic realism.” Thus, if we aware that we are somehow tainted, how can our motives towards, or our worthiness to achieve  victory be pure?   

 Our Epistle for the day dispels any doubt about the rightness of our victory, for one key reason: its source.  Rather than experiencing the lackluster approval our own spirits give us, or rejoicing in our  frequent deceptive  self-concept, we have something better.  We have a renaissance of something real, eternal, and perfect.                                                                                                                                                                   
We who are Christians are no longer of the world in the same sense as others; they have not tasted the sweetness of Christ.  Thus this statement: (1 John 5:4) “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”  We who are baptized, worshipping, committed Christians are in the world, but not of it because we trace our spiritual genealogy to Christ Himself. 

Considering this, how did Christ come and how can we believe His report? To answer this question,         let’s explore some of John’s motives for writing this epistle.  He was seeking to bolster the faith of the early church, but he also sought to defeat an early, sinister heresy that sprang up, called the Docetists. This group taught that Jesus was not really a man, but merely seemed to be so. Another group taught that Christ wasn’t God, but was only a man.  Since God couldn’t die, Jesus couldn’t be God.  Rather they had an idea that “the Christ” came upon Jesus during His lifetime, but suddenly left Him when he expired on the Cross.[1]

John refutes these positions by telling us that Christ came in this fashion: (1 John 5:6) This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood.”  Examining this statement closer, we see that Christ did not come by water only, that is, by baptism, whereby the spirit of “the Christ” came on Jesus, but water and blood.  Yes, Jesus began his ministry when the Holy Spirit alighted upon him at Jordan, ostensibly after His baptism.  He finished his work on the Cross, where His holy Blood was shed for us.  While Christ did not need baptism to receive the Spirit, recall that Jesus “suffered” John to baptize Him, in order to “fulfill all righteousness.”  His baptism was meant as a sign for us and showed that Jesus fulfilled, but did not destroy the Law.

Thus, John seeks to tie the water and the blood together to proclaim the unity of Christ.  The water and the blood agree on earth, while the Holy Spirit bears witness to the truth of Christ. John also tells us there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word (Christ) and the Spirit.  These three are one and they agree. Thus, we have the Trinity in heaven: Father, Word, and Spirit agreeing to the truth of Christ, and we have the earthly trinity: the Spirit, the blood, and the water agreeing also. According to the Old Testament Law, in the mouth of two or three witnesses, something was confirmed, so it is with Christ.  Since both trinities agree on the truth of Christ as both God and man, I is clear that Christ is not only man but God as well.

Consider this: is there such a thing as the sin of unbelief?  Is it actually a sin not to believe Jesus as the Son of God?  This is an interesting question, but it is one that John can answer with an unequivocal “yes.”  Why? Simply because he states that while the witness of man is important, the witness of God is greater. God has witnessed to the truth of His Son through his miraculous birth, his sinless life, his ministry, his passion, and greatest of all, his resurrection.  Besides all this, the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Son, and his witness is true.[2]

Continuing with this thought, those of us who accept the truth of Christ and believe in him receive a witness in ourselves. We simply know through faith that He is true.  On the other hand, those who reject God make Him a liar, because they reject the witness God has given us of His Son. It certainly seems that those who do this are sinning because not only do they reject the Truth, but they call the Truth a lie by their actions of unbelief.

Simply, John tells us the record that God the Father has given us of His Son:  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  Those who have the Son have life, and those who have not the Son have not life.  It is at once simple and profound.

We Christians must have faith to believe, and that faith is in a man who was born of God, came among us, taught us, healed us, and ultimately died for us.  This too is simple and profound. 

In the end, our faith in this God-man enables us to overcome the world.  It is a faith that comes not from ourselves, but from the One who gives us all things. He Himself enables us to believe in Him as He draws us to Him. He enables us to love him because He first loved us.  He is able to give us unquenchable joy because He is the Source of all joy.

We will, in the end, overcome this fallen world through Christ. Through our faith in the record that God the Father has given of His Son, we have this witness in ourselves.  In the end, after all the hoopla and panoply of futility has passed by, we will have something else: a real, durable life in Christ that will not and cannot be overcome.

Do we have victory? 1 John 5:4   “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  AMEN

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Let this Mind be in You

Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
Palm Sunday, March 29, 2010

We hope and pray that this Lent, your Lent, has been productive and rewarding, yielding some spiritual fruit. After all, this is what Lent is all about, preparing your soul for the upcoming Paschal Joy.

Now, we are on the threshold of another church season.  Without, we pray, overstating the obvious, it is the season that defines Christianity, We are now preparing, in earnest, for the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are getting ready for that spiritually rich and blessed season of Easter. While materially poor when compared with Christmas, it is the more blessed of the seasons simply because it is the raison d’etre for Christianity, its very reason to be.

Yet, we are not here to preach an Easter sermon.  Not yet. While we “strain in the harness”, so to speak, as we press forward towards the blessed Resurrection , it is not yet time.  Today, we deal with the whole, nasty, business of the mock trial of Christ, his betrayal into the hands of sinful, expedient men, and the subsequent, merciless, torture-death inflicted on our Lord.  We read about the “prisoner swap” of Barabbas for Jesus, the just for the unjust feel the burning injustice of it all.  Perhaps we can almost feel our throats burn with hoarseness from shouting, as we fancy ourselves part of the faithful crowd that cried out for Jesus’ release. The coarse mob would have none of it; but, being lashed into a frenzy by the Scribes and Pharisees, they bellowed for Jesus’ death.

We know the rest of the story.  Christ, who had been scourged with the heartless Roman whips, whose ends were laden with sharp metal, was virtually on the point of walking unconsciousness.  How brutal…. Now, Christ was led to the Praetorium to undergo further degradation. He was arrayed in a gorgeous royal robe and mocked by the band of hard Roman soldiers. These were career legionnaires, who had signed up for a single thirty-year hitch, after which they would be pensioned off with land and money. So, why not? They had some cruel fun with this prisoner, this so-called King.

Thus, a mock pageant of adoration began, as the soldiers both mocked Christ and pummeled Him.  Before all this however, the King needed a crown. In a sadistic turn of satanic ingenuity, the soldiers platted a crown of long, sharp Palestinian thorns for Jesus.  This crown they bestowed on Him, not gently laying it on His head for a king, but forcing it down with brute force, as for a usurper of kingly glory. Imagine how the blood flowed! Those of us who have had even a minor scalp wound know.  
Now, not only from his torn and tattered back, lashed with 39 stripes, but from His head flowed the precious liquid.  Ah, Sacred Head, sore wounded!

Although Matthew’s Gospel does not tell of it, from historic devotions such as the Stations of the Cross, we believe that Christ fell three times on his way to the cross.  Weak from loss of blood, fasting and thirsty, he simply couldn’t bear the weight of it.   Simon of Cyrene was compelled to bear his cross for Him.

Now, we come to the Cross.  Christ is stripped before the gaze of the rude crowd; Rough hands drive spikes into his hands or wrists and then into his feet. He is elevated on the cross and there he hung, in speechless agony.  Countless muscle cramps afflicted him, and each agonizing breath required him to press upward on his wounded feet to obtain air.  In every way, this barbarous execution method was an amazing odyssey of pain.  He did this for all of us, for you. It was his hard joy so to do.

This brings us to the topic of St. Paul’s Epistle selection for the day from Philippians 2.  St. Paul tells us Christ humbled himself, and was made like unto us, by sharing in our human nature.  However, stated like this, Christ’s uniqueness is understated.  Christ did not only share in our human nature, He took Humanity into His Divinity.  The human did not become divine, but rather the divine took on humanity. How glorious is this humility!  Christ deigned to lay aside his divine power so He could taste death, real human death for all of us.  Some translations say that He “emptied” himself as He did this, yet in no way did He become any less divine in so doing. The Greek word for this is keno,w,, “to empty.” One heresy said that Christ laid aside his divinity completely during the Passion and was merely human.  Later, this heresy claimed, Christ reassumed His Divinity to rise from the dead.  Suffice it to say that this is totally erroneous and does violence to the dual-nature doctrine of Christ.

One of the mysterious and glorious aspects of the Crucifixion is that the God-Man, Jesus Christ, did consent to suffer and die upon the Cross for us.  If Christ were not God, He could not take on the sins on mankind on the Cross.  If He were not fully Man, the sacrifice would not have been efficacious.

We do not debate either point.  We know that Jesus Christ, perfect Man and Perfect God, suffered and died on the Cross for us.  We do not fully understand, nor are we able to comprehend, the profundity of the Holy Sacrifice. Yet, we take God at His Word and accept it, humbly. We fall before His Cross, speechless and prostrate, ovecome by Love.

Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name”[1]  Christ’s glory is such that all living things should reverence and worship Him, to the exclusion of all else. 
To Christ belong all glory, laud, and honor.  All things in Heaven and Earth should bow at His mention and do him reverence.  This is why we slightly bow our heads at the name of Jesus. This is not mere affectation; it is giving honor and glory to Him who is most deserving.

There will come a day when all eyes shall see Him, as he returns with glory. Much of mankind, the godless and the faithless, will look up and “mourn” as they behold Christ’s glory in the skies. They will see their world coming to an end. Real, eternal judgment is about to proceed on them.

On the other hand, the faithful and the godly, anticipating Christ’s appearance, will look up and give thanks.  Fearful it will be, yet the faithful will look up and say, “My Lord and my God.”

This is what Palm Sunday is all about.  We recognize the price paid for us.  We recognize that Christ hung there for us.  We recognize, in silent adoration, that Christ’s love for us is the reason.

Let us begin Holy Week with this in mind.  As we have borne with it in Lent, for one more week we must bear our own iniquity. While unable to justify ourselves, we can at least say: Christ did this for me.

Philippians 2:9-11  “ that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth,  11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”                                                                                                  

Glory be to God the Father, and to God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, now and forever.   AMEN

[1] Phil. 2:9

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Children of Promise 2015

Fourth Sunday of Lent 2015
“The Children of Promise…”
Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
March 15, 2015

Good Morning!  I pray you are having a blessed Lent, as we prepare our hearts and souls for the world’s most singular moment: the celebration of the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ resurrection is the culmination of a grand theme that God revealed to man through His Son.  That theme, prevalent this Sunday, is one of promise and Grace, reflected by The Collect for the Day and the Epistle from Galatians IV.  Allow me to repeat the key phrase from the Collect:  the “comfort of thy grace.”

There are a wide variety of meanings for “grace”, but let us consider these two: first, The Gift of God to humankind.  This means the infinite love, mercy, favor, and goodwill shown to humankind by God. The second corollary to this is: Freedom from sin. In Christianity, this means the condition of being freed from or restrained from sin by confession and repentance to God.

In light of the Collect, both of these definitions make sense.  We, who do deserve to be punished when compared to the ultimate, perfect holiness of God, are most graciously “relieved” through God’s infinite love for us.  Using the second definition as well, we are freed from sin in and through Jesus Christ.

In light of the Epistle from Galatians, St. Paul expounds further on this concept of grace.  He uses the term “promise” to indicate the certainty of our life in God. Just as Abraham received his promise from God in his heir, Isaac, so we receive the promise of God to us in the form of eternal life.

In the epistle for today, it’s important to recognize that St. Paul was not merely engaging in pleasant philosophical discussions about grace, salvation, promise, etc. We know that he was fighting for the infant Church’s very survival.  We know that he grappled with all of the issues we face today, but to a much larger degree.  In the case of the Galatians, he was exhorting them to stay true to the Gospel, and was trying to deflect the specious and erroneous doctrines put forth by a group called the Judaizers.  This group literally shadowed his steps as he planted churches. They had the goal of turning new Christians away from Christ, back to the whole lot of Jewish ceremonial law, including circumcision. Only in this way, they preached, could one be a devout follower of Jesus. 

 Much of the Epistle to the Galatians is devoted to the denial of this heresy. To do this, St. Paul developed an allegory, using Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar, was born when the promised heir failed to appear according to Abraham’s timetable. Thus, they tried to force the issue by producing a child through Hagar, Sarah’s maid.  

Yet, we know that God is not frustrated. In due time, Isaac appeared, the true, long-awaited son of Sarah and Abraham. He was the child of promise. Ishmael, the child of man’s design, would become the father of the Arab nations and would be a great man in his own right. Yet, he was not the legitimate heir of Abraham. He was cast out from Abraham’s family.

St. Paul’s point is this: Hagar and Ishmael stand for Mt. Sinai, where the Jews received the law from God, the Old Covenant.  At first, a good thing, but over time the Law became so complicated and so convoluted that is served no other purpose but to remind man how sinful he was.  Being perverted by the Jewish priestly class’ endless additions to it, the Law grew to be a stringent instrument of negativity and spiritual death. It was a law of bondage.

On the other hand, Sarah and Isaac represent the New Covenant, symbolized by Jerusalem.  This is the gospel of promise and of comfort.  St Paul says it is much more fruitful than the old, producing many spiritual offspring.  Thus, while Hagar symbolizes Ishmael and the bondage of the Law, Sarah symbolizes Isaac: promise and freedom. 

This goes to the very heart of what we can glean from Scripture today. Basically, the question is this: are we as Christians bound by the Law, or are we free in Christ by the Gospel? That is, to what degree are we to be bound up in legalism and outward norms of behavior versus the liberating effect of the Holy Spirit on the human heart? In short, are we to have no other law but “to love one another”, as Christ commanded us?

This is a very difficult question. To answer the question, are we bound by Law or freed by Gospel, the answer is yes.  It is not a situation of either/or but both/and. 

We are bound by Law in the Church, but not to the death-giving law of the rabbis. They sought to regulate and protect the pious Jew from any chance of pollution by sin. Yet, it was impossible to keep the Law, and as St. Paul tells us, the Law could only remind us how sinful we were.

Yet, we Christians do strive to keep a very important part of the old Law. Our basic law is the Ten Commandments.  This is the roadmap for our journey in life and the Christian’s modus operandi.

However, if this were all the instructions we had in life, our journey would be barren indeed. The Commandments are too sterile and too basic by themselves to be completely fulfilling.  That is why Christ added the great “law of love” to the commandments, from John 13:34: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” 

This is the “flesh and bones” that Christ added to the Ten Commandments.  We are to follow the Commandments, yes, but we are to do it with love.  That is the difference.  While we Christians are bound by law, both secular and sacred, we are to adhere to these norms with love, not by legalism.

St. Paul echoes this in Romans 13:8 “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law”; and in Romans 13:9-10:  “For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” 

Love is the universal constant here. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came, as he said, not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. As such, Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect Man, is the living bridge between the Testaments. Foretold in the Old, revealed in the New, He is God the Father’s last, best, and complete testimony to mankind. Christ and only Christ could both preach and practice perfect love. Not only in his acts of healing and kindness, but in his monumental, complete Atonement on the Cross. This is most excellent expression of love ever proclaimed.

This brings us full circle, back to the concept of grace and promise.  Jesus has promised us eternal life with Him. We are “inheritors” and “joint heirs” of the Kingdom of Heaven.  This makes us Christians the most blessed of all people, as we look for our full consummation  in Heaven, glorifying and praising God for ever and ever. This is glorious.  This is wonderful.  It is God’s free gift to us and it is His promise to us as Christians.

Thus, are we bound by law or freed by Gospel….?  The answer is…Yes.

GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.