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Friday, August 28, 2020

Promise Made, Promise Kept

Rev. Stephen E. Stults

St. Paul’s Anglican Church

13th Sunday after Trinity

Sept. 6, 2020


Galatians 3:16  6 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ.”


What is a promise?

Promise (Noun): “A declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen.”

As a verb: “assure someone that one will definitely do, give, or arrange something; undertake or declare that something will happen.


When thinking about promises, we must consider a couple of things. First, who is giving this promise? Are they trustworthy? Can they keep their word?  Second, are they able to keep this promise?  Can they do it?


We know from Scripture that God made Abraham a promise. This type of promise is called a covenant, which is very solemn and serious. Not that any of our promises should be taken lightly, but a covenant is a real, binding type of situation.  Both parties agree to adopt and perform the covenant terms.  In this case, God commanded Abraham to depart from his people in Ur of the Chaldees and to go to place God would send him.  If he did so, God would prosper him and make his seed as plenteous as the stars in the sky.  Here is the language God used with Abraham, (then Abram): Genesis 12:2-3  2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:  3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”


That is quite a promise.   Let’s consider it in light of our two considerations.  First, God gave the promise to Abraham. There can be no other, surer, promise-giver than Him. Second, can God fulfill His promises?  These questions are surely rhetorical to people of faith.


This being the case, how is this promise important to us?  How does it affect us and our lives? Simply this: “…in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

Once again, we say, “how?”


It may depend on how views Holy Scripture.  Reading recently a book by a contemporary Bible scholar, Hans Boersma, Scripture as Real Presence, we learn about the ways the early Church fathers, among them Origen, St. Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and others, read the Bible. Although some of the early commentators on the Bible, ranging from the third, fourth, and fifth centuries, were accused of being overly allegorical in their approach to the Bible, that is, they were always looking for a symbolic meaning of the text, we learn that many of the these early Christians also took a serious literal interpretation of it as well.


What this means is that they plainly saw Christ in the Old Testament as well as the new. To their mind, there was no great chasm between the Old and the New.  Many of us growing up in the Protestant Episcopal Church of America (PECUSA), like I did, had a sense of two testaments that weren’t really connected. There was the wrathful, vengeful God of the Old Testament vs. the loving, caring God of the New, as expressed in Jesus Christ. One really didn’t  need the Old Testament, except to explain the creation of the Earth, or those parts of the Prophet Isaiah we read at Christmas.


This was the result of an early 20th  Century theological movement called Dispensationalism, which claimed God made “dispensations” , or that He “dispensed” His Will to mankind at certain times.  Thus, the theory went, the great difference between the Testaments.

Looking at the early Church Fathers, nothing could be farther from the truth. The Bible is one book in which Christ is plainly seen.  He is evident in both Old and New Testaments.  One of my favorite quotes from Bishop Lightfoot goes: “In the Old, the New concealed; in the New, the Old revealed.”


At this point, you may say, “Great, Father Stults, but what has any of this to do with the promise made to Abraham?”  Everything.  Why are all the families of the world blessed in Abraham? Who descended from Abraham through the House of David?  Joseph, whose earthly caregiver and caretaker Jesus was.  In the real sense, Jesus is the Son of God, immaculately conceived in the womb of the Blessed Mary. In the worldly sense, Jesus is of the house and lineage of David, a direct descendant of Abraham.


How then, are modern-day Christians blessed through this?  Do we really have to ask?  Yes, we do. Sometimes, perhaps we fail to recall that our blessings, temporal and eternal, rest in Christ.  Because Jesus is the descendent of Abraham, born of Mary and protected by Joseph, He grew up a Jew. It was fitting that one of God’s chosen people should be offered as the Spotless Lamb of God, “..slain from the  foundations of the world.”[i]   From this, all our blessings flow.


Just how are Christians blessed?

We are blessed with eternal life through Him.

We are blessed with the daily, immanent presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. From this, we know that we are never alone.

We are blessed in the peace of God that passes all understanding.

We are blessed because we have joy in life despite our circumstances.

We are blessed with purpose because we are seeking God’s Will for our lives.

We are blessed to have the Holy Scriptures to lead us in our walk with God.

We are blessed because God loves us, and we love God.


If we have a right mind with God, what more could we want?

Yes, we could say material things are desired. Certainly. Yet, didn’t Jesus say, (Matthew 6:33)  33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”?  Yes, He did.


When we seek the will of God for our lives first, all else is truly added to that.  All blessings flow to him that wants to want what God wants for him.  It’s a strange paradox that in giving up, we gain, and by losing ourselves, we find ourselves.


Yet, that is how it is.


May we all find our truest purpose in Him, and in so doing, may all God’s richest blessings be poured upon us.






[i] Rev. 13:8

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Time of thy Visitation


Rev. Stephen E. Stults

St. Paul’s Anglican Church

The Tenth Sunday after Trinity, 2020


Our Gospel selection for the day is quite chilling.  It is completely prophetically accurate, and it has ramifications for the present day as well.


Let us examine its prophetical aspects.  Christ foretells the destruction of Jerusalem as he predicts accurately, the events to come: “For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”  Jesus is describing the devastation the Romans would inflict on the city in 70 a.d., after the Jews revolted again under Roman rule.  It is completely accurate, for we know from history that the Romans built fortifications around Jerusalem and besieged it for about four months. The future Roman Emperor Titus led the campaign personally.


Flavius Josephus, the Roman-Jewish historian, acted as mediator when talks were attempted between the warring parties. Problems arose when the Zealots wounded one of the diplomats with an arrow, adding to an already chaotic situation inside the city.  In addition, the Zealots suffered from a lack of cohesive leadership.  At one point, they even destroyed their own food stocks to solicit divine aid and to motivate their own followers. 

Josephus recorded the dire events: “[Titus] Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and Temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as they were of the greatest eminence; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne; and so much of the wall enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison [in the Upper City], as were the towers [the three forts] also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall [surrounding Jerusalem], it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it [Jerusalem] had ever been inhabited.”[1]


In short, the destruction was complete.  Jerusalem was destroyed again.  The revolt was put down.  The final idolatry of the Jews was finished, it seemed, as the bitter fruit of their rebellion came forth.  Thus, Jesus’ words were prophetic and exact. The Jews’ rejection of Him meant they would attempt to handle affairs on their own, as the Zealots sought earthly power and independence on their own terms.  We must ponder, is there a consequence of rejecting Jesus?


This is a vital question for all ages.  If we are not aware of the “time of our visitation”, do we run the risk of losing our fellowship with Christ.  It would seem so.  It is a progressive process. 

If one rejects Christ (God), one becomes ruled by self-will. Self-will is absent guidance of the Holy Spirit, and thus the moderating effects on our riotous natures. There is no “bridle” on us, so to speak.  Thus it was with the 1st century Zealots.  So, it is with the radicals of Antifa and BLM today. Watching a live broadcast of “demonstrating” (rioting) in Beirut earlier this week, it seemed as if a lot of Lebanese kids were just interested in tearing something down.


Human nature and human will without the regulation of God always falls in the ditch on one side or the other.  The Zealots sought autonomy and freedom at any cost. They were immoderate and disorganized.  They fought fiercely, yet without any real results except their own destruction.  In the end, their efforts and sacrifice were futile.  Antifa and BLM share similar characteristics yet are different in some respects.  Whereas the Zealots lacked cohesive leadership, there is some organization behind today’s radical groups.  For example, while claiming to be “spontaneous, peaceful” protesters, evidence has been found that shows just the opposite.  Piles of bricks and inflammatory devices have been found at many “protest” sites.  The group in Portland, Oregon has been rioting for over 65 days.  As a result, we are seeing a housing boom as many families flee to the suburbs nationwide, further eviscerating the inner cities. 


We must ask, who is funding these groups?  How can these people survive without jobs or income? What are their goals? Unlike the Zealots, who wanted freedom from Roman rule, what do Antifa and BLM want?  It is not clear, except to foster anarchy. 


What might have been a better course of action for the 1st century Zealots?  It is, as Christians know, to submit to earthly authority until God changes the situation or creates a godly revolt.  For example, the American Revolution was certainly not peaceful.  It involved arms and great sacrifice of life and property.  Yet, its underpinnings were godly. 


The Declaration of Independence clearly states the source of all liberty is God, and that under Him, all men are created equal. It also states that all men are “endowed by their Creator” with certain “unalienable rights”, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  It was always clear that God was at the center of things and from His Power comes all earthly power.  One must wonder if the Zealots held similar beliefs, or if they felt they could seize power in the name of Zionism alone.


The same can be said for Antifa and BLM.  There is no allegiance to God in their charters.  They are controlled by forces much darker, even Satanic. As Christ once told us, “Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.”[2]  We realize that their aims are not godly.


Beloved, there is a lesson here for us as well.  We are fortunate to have a constant reminder of the “time of our visitation.” That is, we can know Christ and fellowship with him weekly, daily, and moment-to-moment through the Holy Spirit. 

It the blessing of Pentecost that God has poured Himself out on all mankind.  Let us always be cognizant of our blessings and give thanks for them. Let us not ignore the time of our visitation.


It is the precious gift of God, and a foretaste of our blessedness to come.




[1] Wikipedia, “Roman Destruction of Jerusalem, a.d. 70

[2] Luke 7:20

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Restoration and Life

Rev. Stephen E. Stults

St.  Paul’s Anglican Church

6th Sunday in Trinity 2020

July 19, 2020


Jeremiah 31:8   8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither.


Today we hear amazing words of prophecy from Jeremiah, the “suffering prophet.”  It was he that was given the most unpleasant task of prophesying doom and destruction to a prosperous and sinful nation. In the midst of their richness and luxury, Jeremiah told them to repent, or else suffer the judgment of God. Those of you familiar with the Book of Jeremiah know that he was ridiculed, accused, jailed, and almost killed for these words.


Nevertheless, he prevailed.   After many years of preaching, Jerusalem was attacked, besieged and eventually taken by her enemies. Jeremiah himself survived the siege and the sack of the city. He was eventually taken to Egypt, where he died, an unsung hero for God.


During his prophecy, mixed among the words of dire consequences, were scattered some words of hope.  As is common among prophets, their vision encompasses both the near view and the long view.  For example, Jeremiah told the people to repent now and perhaps escape God’s wrath; this they ignored and were punished.  He also foresaw a time of restoration and renewal, which would happen a long time after his death.


This selection from his prophecy deals with such a restoration.  After all, life and growth is what God is all about. He is not about death, or destruction, although these occur due to the sinfulness of men.  He does not desire that any should die, or suffer pain, yet he gives Man free will to do what he does.  Usually, this involves selfishness, greed, and ambition of some, to the detriment of many.


Yet, this is not what God wants. He wants us to love Him, worship Him, and live under His covenant for our own good.  He wants this, despite knowing our true nature without Him, which always tends to the worse.


Here in this selection of prophecy, we see God’s promise coming true.  It did not take shape in Jeremiah’s lifetime, but it occurred some time after, and it occurred again in full force in the 20th century.


We know that Jerusalem was rebuilt, starting with the decree of Cyrus the Mede, culminating with the building of the Second Temple under Darius. This rebuilding continued under Artaxerxes, presided over by Ezra and Nehemiah.


Jerusalem would again be destroyed and desecrated by the Greeks, after the death of Alexander the Great.  The Greek Ptolemies would attempt to erase Jewish culture until the Maccabean Revolt, which would remove Greek rule.  The Romans ultimately conquered Palestine, which brought prosperity and uneasy peace. The Temple was restored again, beginning in 20 B.C.  Relative peace continued up and through the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, until once again, Jerusalem and the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 a.d.


Then, in 1945, we see the establishment of the modern state of Israel. Jews from all over the world streamed into Israel.  The state of Israel, and the city of Jerusalem, at least the Jewish part, gained new life according to the prophecy of Jeremiah. God’s promise of restoration to Israel literally came true.


You may be thinking, “Thanks for the history lesson, Fr. Stults, but what has this got to do with us?”  Good question. Simply this: since our God is all about life and not death, about restoration and not destruction, what message can we glean from the circumstances of today?  It is this.  God can and will restore our country and nation’s peace.  He can make it happen. Only His calming Hand can quiet the madness of the peoples.


True, we face threats like we have not seen for many years, even ever in our history. The radical Left is energized by the sheepishness and moral weakness of our local leaders.  No one is willing to denounce this violent denunciation of peace, except for a few courageous national figures.  Many local mayors simply wring their hands while their cities burn. Worse yet, many have willingly surrendered parts of their settlements to the socialist Left.


Yet, even this can be turned around by the most non-violent of weapons.  As in the days of ancient Israel, after they had suffered a while, they turned their cries up to God.  In his ultimate mercy, God heard their distress and sent them deliverers in the form of judges.  Note however, that the first step for ancient Israel, and for us, is repentance.  We must acknowledge our own sinfulness before God before He will turn and heal us.


This begs a question: what if no one has a desire to repent?  Or, they are unable to see their sin, having their consciences seared by sin?  What can we do? Again, we turn to history.  Even in Israel’s darkest days, there was a faithful remnant.  This faithful bit of leaven (yeast) managed to enliven the whole lump of dough that was Israel.  Their prayers were heard by God.


So it is with us.  We are the faithful remnant.  We, and millions of other praying Americans are holding this country up in prayer.[RS1]  We must continue to do so.  If you are not praying daily for this country, please start today…  It is critical to our survival.


That being said, for what do we pray?  First, pray for our leaders.  If you use the Morning and Evening Prayer forms in the Book of Common prayer, there are already prayers for this purpose.  Use them, and add your own prayers for peace, for confusion to America’s enemies, and for God’s Almighty Hand to cover this nation.


Next, pray for our people.  Diverse and divergent we are, true, but pray that we may recover our common sense of being Americans. Pray for a spirit of repentance and a release of the Satanic pride and selfishness gripping our nation.

Pray for another Great Awakening to sweep across our great land.


Do not forget, we are still great, the greatest nation on the face of the Earth, thanks to God’s Providence to us. Pray that God continue His mercy to us, even if for the remnant’s sake.  Our voices are loud and persistent to God.


Finally, always give thanks and praise to Him who doeth all things well.

It is by His grace that we live, and move, and have our being.





Thursday, July 9, 2020

Of One Mind

Rev. Stephen E. Stults

St.  Paul’s Anglican Church

5th Sunday in Trinity 2020

July 12, 2020


“Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.”


What words for today! Considering the crazy environment today, amid the host of  competing agendas, how can we have anything but a mass of confusion? It seems as if we cannot.


What began as largely peaceful protests have become the fertile ground for civil disobedience and widescale destruction. Large, global forces of evil are encompassing us and threatening our liberty and our nation itself. It is likely those who wish to abolish national sovereignty in favor of a “global” government are using these occurrences to fund and to foment radical destruction of our history and heritage.  There are many voices clamoring to be heard, often by any means necessary, including violence.


Some of these ideas are truly radical and completely nonsensical, such as the demand to defund local police departments.  We are already witnessing the uptick in murder and violent crime in cities like Chicago and New York, where these revolutionary ideas have taken root.  If one has forgotten (or never known about) the radical days of 1968, when riots and violent demonstrations rocked the country, one might be tempted to think that this is the worst. It is not.  It is bad, true.  It is probably one of the more unsettling times we have lived through, but it is not the worst.


Those who lived through the Blitz in London, when the Nazi bombers tore parts of London down, or lived through the recent destruction of Syria would differ in opinion. Those who lived through the Siege of Stalingrad would also disagree. Horrible times, to be sure.


This is not to downplay what is going on currently.  It is bad. Yet, this will pass. The question is, is there an answer to this maelstrom of disagreement and discord?


There is.  There has always been an answer, but it is one to which the World will not cling, except in times of extreme distress.  Why is it that we forget this answer, often until the train is literally going off the track? What is wrong with the World?


Part of it is our natural perversity, and part of it deals with our need to create our own God.  Recalling the words of a wise old Sunday School teacher: “There is a God, and you are not it.”  How true.


Yet, we try.  I constantly marvel at my sons’ and the generations after them.  They reject the old rules of Christianity; and have created “scads” of new rules for dating, relationships, and social conduct. The rules are often quite strict, and quite merciless. Violate them and one is cut off immediately.


Let’s look at St. Peter’s words for some better context.  He tells us: “Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, be pitiful (meaning full of pity, piteous) be courteous, not rendering evil for evil…”  Just this portion is a huge task.  It is something that is not largely done, overall. 


Yet, we must try.  Recalling the Summary of the Law, we know there are two things we must do as Christians: Love God with all of our being and love each other as we love ourselves. Both seem so simple, yet we find them so difficult!


First, how do we love God?  Those of us in the household of faith worship Him, certainly.  But why?  Simply because He is so worthy of it! We recognize that all things were created by God; they exist for and by His Pleasure.  He delights in His Creation.  We should delight in Him as the Author and Giver of all good things.  We should: “Go our ways into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; and speak good of His Name.”   Is that so hard?  Is it truly difficult to give thanks and praise to the One who does all things well?


Apparently for some, it is. Call it blinded sight, or a dormant faith, or simply a spirit seared by sin, but it creates a huge obstacle for some. They are unable to open their eyes and see.  Pray for them.


Second, we must love each other as ourselves. Again, how easy to say, but so difficult to do.  How do we do this?  First, listen to Christ.  He said, “treat others the way you would have them treat you.” Simple, no?  Difficult to do, yes!  For the life of me, I do not know why, except to blame my own inherent selfishness. Frequently, I am reminded with someone with whom I live closely, that the world does not revolve around me.  Here it is: think of others before you think of yourself.


If all of us would be of one mind, the mind of Christ, and adopt these two rules, how blessed we would be! If we could just love God first, and then love our fellow man as we love ourselves, most of life’s difficulties would diminish greatly.


If we strive for something in this life, perhaps this should be it.


“Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith. THOU shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”







Thursday, July 2, 2020

Suffering and Glory

Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
4th Sunday After Trinity 2020

Romans viii. 18. I RECKON that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Are suffering and glory connected?  Is suffering the lens through which we view our hope of glory?  If so, how does suffering prepare us for the glory to come?

These are weighty questions. One commentator says, “There is nothing like a believing view of the glory which shall be revealed to support and bear up the spirit under all the sufferings of this present time. The reproach of Christ appears riches to those who have respect to the recompence of reward,”[i]   This view is also confirmed in Heb. 11:26, where the writer tells how Moses forsook the luxury of the Egyptian court to share the sufferings of his people: ”[ii] Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

St. Paul certainly knew about suffering.  As he recounts in 2 Corinthians 11:23-25: Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.  24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.  25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;”

Yet, through it all, St. Paul never lost his hope of glory. He was fortunate enough to have had a glimpse of glory, as he stated in 2 Corinthians 12:3-4 : And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)  4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” 

Yet, even without this heavenly vision, one feels that Paul would have kept his vision of glory to come, given by his unshakeable faith.  After all, he had seen the risen Christ on the Damascus Road, when he first received his commission.  

Even that experience did not come without some suffering, as St. Paul spent the next three days blind and fasting. God eventually sent the disciple Ananias to lay hands on him.  After this, he received his sight.  Imagine being given that task!  Ananias complained to God, that this was the great persecutor of the church and he was being sent to him?  Thankfully, he obeyed, and Saul (then Paul) received his physical and spiritual sight.

It’s been said (in the Book of Proverbs and Job) that wisdom does not come without suffering.  Most of us who have some level of maturity would probably agree.  How about our hope of glory?  Is it sharpened by suffering?  Or, is it blunted?  We think it depends on the gift of faith one has.  If one’s faith is deep and rich, we think one can discount the “sufferings of this present time” because of the “glory that will be revealed in us.”  On the other hand, if one’s faith is superficial, sufferings may cause doubt or even a falling away from the faith.  If this be the case, let us pray for a rich and hearty faith!

Why?  Because the scripture clearly states (Romans 8:22) “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”  We need a strong faith to survive the vicissitudes of life without buckling.  I was musing on this very passage the other day, thinking about the nature of nature itself, how things must die for other things to survive. We humans, being at the top of the food chain, constantly harvest and consume other creatures for our survival.  I frankly admit that I am a carnivore, or better put, an omnivore who eats everything!  Even our vegetarian and vegan friends do not eat without sacrifice. Plants must be killed (harvested) for their nutrition, too.

In the wild, animals must prey on other animals to survive.  It’s a tough world at its very core. Thus, St. Paul teaches us about the groaning of creation.

Yet, there is hope. “The glory that shall be revealed in us” refers to the ultimate consummation of our existence, when we will be united with God in glory everlasting.  It also deals with the cessation of pain for all Creation.  Someday, when Christ returns, all pain will cease for Creation, and for those called to His Glory.  Life will be as it was meant to be originally.

This is why we have hope.  It is why those of us in the household of faith look forward to our coming life in Christ, despite what comes our way here.  None of us should expect a perfect life here, for it does not exist. Life is necessarily flawed and imperfect here, being only a faint reflection of our life to come.

This is why we have hope.  This is why we have joy, now, despite our circumstances.         
There is a far greater “weight of glory” waiting for us, that certainly makes our current suffering look paltry and weak. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;  18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

We can do this because we have a Eternal Friend and Companion in the Holy Ghost, who strengthens us and helps us through our difficult times.  With His help, we can look through the current burden of our times to the next phase of our existence, when we will exist without time, without pain, and without sorrow. 

This is our eternal destiny. It is the reason we can “…reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  AMEN.

[i] Matthew Henry, “Commentary on Romans”
[ii] lbid

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The 100th Sheep

Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
3rd Sunday after Trinity 2020
June 28, 2020

Luke 15:4   4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

Have you ever felt like the 100th sheep? That is, have you ever felt like you were out there, in the wilderness, alone, with no one to help you? Have you ever thought, “I’m all by myself. No one cares about me.  No one understands how I feel.” Have you ever felt completely isolated in your suffering?  If so, you are not alone. All of us have felt that way at one time or another.

This is a very perilous area.  All of us, due to pain, loneliness, sickness, or grief, have felt completely cut off from the world.  Perhaps we have thought of ourselves as an island that is isolated and uninhabited, except for us and our misery.  It is common to all, and frankly, is a serious temptation.

Why do we say temptation?  Recalling that “…your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…”, never forget that Our Adversary Below  is always seeking to hinder us and plague us in any way possible. One of his favorite tactics is isolation.  When we are hurt, discouraged, sick, or grieving, it is an opportune time to launch a spiritual (and usually psychological) attack.  These are the times that Satan uses to his advantage because we are not at our strongest. He tells us we are alone. eHBefore we know it, our mind and spirit are awash in negativity.  It may be overwhelming sadness, or depression, or simply nasty accusatory thoughts.  Satan is not called “the accuser of the brethren” for no reason,
In fact, He (Satan) may dredge up events that happened months, years, or even decades ago in an attempt to wage mental and spiritual warfare against us. He tries to remind us of our failings and our shortcomings to breed bad feelings. Satan likes it when we feel bad.

e reSo it is. It is our common fate for as long as we live on this Earth.  All of us have episodes like this. The stark reality of it is that the more spiritually mature and aware we are, the more intense the attacks are.  Martin Luther suffered terribly from these episodes. All great saints do. They are not pleasant but have the sick stench of Satanic activity about them.

Let us not dwell upon this, because we have the antidote to the Devil and his activity. It is contained in today’s Gospel.  Jesus tells us about the shepherd who has a herd of 100 sheep.  At the end of the day, he counts his flock and finds that one is missing.  Does he just shrug his head and say, “Oh well; ninety-nine is good enough?” No!  He leaves the herd and goes to seek the lost sheep.  He looks until he finds it.  Then, rejoicing, he places it on his shoulders and brings it home. What an image!  That lamb is safe and he is coming back to his flock. It is simply glorious. The Shepherd didn’t leave that sheep to be ravaged by wolves.  He sought him and brought him home.

We hope that you see the parallel here.  All of us, at one time or another, have been the 100th sheep.  Through our own sin, or through the temptation of isolation, we have all been lost in the wilderness. It seems hopeless. Then, in the distance, we hear something.  It is coming closer.  It is the voice of our Great Shepherd, calling us.   He has been looking for us.  All we must do is hear that call and follow it.  If we do, He will meet us and take us home.

Jesus is the answer to our isolation. He is our eternal Companion.  Never, despite what the Satanic voices say, are we ever alone.  How can we say this? Here’s why. Our worldview is this: we have a loving God and Creator, who made all things and loves all things to an infinite degree.  This being has expressed himself to us as a tripartite Person consisting of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. His son, Jesus Christ, loves you personally and completely. It’s been said that if Jesus had to die to just save you, one person, He would have done it.  Such is His care for you.  e He

This underscores an important point.  That point is, that no matter how grievous Evil is in this world, and despite the titanic amount of suffering it causes, it is in no way as powerful as Good. The Universe in general and the Earth in particular, are both inherently good, because they were made by God.
How do we react when the sense of isolation or negativity absorbs us? What power do we  Christians have at our fingertips? We have the greatest power imaginable, the Name of Jesus.  When a Christian prayerfully invokes the name of Jesus with unshakeable faith, miraculous things happen. The sick are cured, the lame walk, the blind see, and the satanic forces are dispelled.  At the name of Jesus, they recoil in fear and loathing. They quit the battlefield, defeated and dispirited.  The satanic forces hate to admit it, but they know they have lost the war.  Deep in their devilish beings, they know they must lose. As Martin Luther once wrote about Satan, “for lo! His doom is sure. One little word shall fell him…”

That word is Jesus.  It is the Word to whom we Christians owe eternal thanks and praise. Why? Certainly for our salvation, but also for the help we receive here and now.  In Christ, we are more than conquerors. We can resist and defeat the spiritual foes that afflict us. 

As the great Irish hymn, “The King of love my shepherd is” says,  “Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,  But yet in love He sought me, And on his shoulder gently laid, And home rejoicing, brought me.”

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