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Monday, March 29, 2010

"Let this mind be in you..."

Palm Sunday 2010
“Let this mind be in you…”
Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Barnabas Anglican Church
Palm Sunday, March 28, 2010

We hope and pray that this Lent, your Lent, has been productive and rewarding. I pray that it has yielded some spiritual fruit that will be a blessing for you from here on. After all, this is what Lent is really all about, preparing your soul for the upcoming Paschal joy. We sincerely hope that this Lent has been meaningful, worthwhile and joyful. If the Lord has blessed you in any of these ways this Lent, all is good.

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 the spiritually rich and blessed season of Easter. While it is 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. It is not time. While we “strain in the harness”, so to speak, as we press forward towards the blessed hope of our resurrection in Christ, 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 torture-death so mercilessly applied to our Lord and Savior. We read about the “prisoner swap” of Barabbas for Jesus, the just for the unjust, and we daresay, 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. This was, of course, to no avail as Pontius Pilate, being the career politician that he was, saw rather “a tumult was made” and delivered Christ to be crucified. As a salve to his own conscience, he washed his hands before the crowd, as he sought, pathetically, Jesus’ release. The crowd 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. Recall that the Romans had so calculated the amount of flogging a man could take without passing out that they delivered exactly one stroke less than the amount needed to send him into blissful oblivion, Instead, they wanted it to hurt and to hurt badly.

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 brutal Roman soldiers. These were career soldiers who had signed up for a single thirty-year hitch in the Legions, after which they would be pensioned off with land and money. God only knows what campaigns and horrors they had seen. Warfare in any age is always bloody, cruel and savage. So, what if they had some fun with this preacher? Who cared? Who was this guy anyway? King of the Jews! Ha! We’ll show him! This was their attitude.

Then, a mock pageant of adoration began, as the soldiers in turn 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, as 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 now from His head as well 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.

So 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 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 in order 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 Ephesians 2. Christ humbled himself, taking on the form of a bond servant (in the Greek doulos – a slave) and was made like unto us, by sharing in our human nature. Stated like this, Christ’s uniqueness is understated. Christ did not only share in our human nature, He took Humanity into His Divinity. Speaking to an ancient heresy, the human did not become divine, but rather the divine took on humanity. Yet, how glorious is this humility! Christ deigned to lay aside his divine power in this respect: he allowed himself to taste death, real human death for all of us on the cross. While some translations say that He “emptied” himself as He did this, in no way did He become any less divine in so doing. The Greek word for this is keno,w,, “to empty.” One heresy, called the “kenotic Christ”, 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. While it is not our purpose today to discuss or even refute this heresy at length, suffice it to say that it is totally erroneous and even 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 orthodox Anglicans 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 and enormity of the Holy Sacrifice. Yet, we take God at His Word and accept it.

We accept it and give endless thanks and praise. We accept it, humbly, and acknowledge our own filthiness and unworthiness before His spotless Majesty.
We fall before His Cross, speechless and prostrate before this justification, empowered by Love.

” Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” Christ’s glory is such that all living things should reverence and worship Him, to the exclusion of all else. That is, to Christ belong all glory, laud, and honor, just as our processional hymn proclaimed. All things in Heaven and Earth should bow at His mention and do him reverence. This is why many of us in the clergy and the devout laity slightly bow our heads at the name of Christ. 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, to take Creation as His Bride. 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 and real, eternal judgment about to proceed upon them.
On the other hand, the faithful and the godly, who look for Christ’s appearing with great anticipation, 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 He did it.

Let us begin Holy Week with this in mind. As we have borne with it in Lent, for one more week we will bear our own iniquity. While never able 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

Monday, March 15, 2010

Evening Blessing

Good Evening, all. May the Lord bless you and keep you, may He make His Face to shine upon you; may he prosper your way now and forever. AMEN
Hello to all... this is the inaugural post for Right for Christ. I hope my various musings, rantings and pontifications will have value to you as time goes by and that you will let me know how I am doing.

Here are some various views:

1. This is America, the land of liberty and of hope. We are, in God's Grace, the last best hope for mankind. We are flawed, we are fallen (as are all men) and we are often just plain wrong. Having said that, we are also the best place to live, in general, on this planet.

2. Christianity is the best hope for mankind, period. Our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, loves all of mankind with a love that is profound and amazing; in fact too amazing for us to comprehend, even a little bit. My advice: accept it, give thanks for it and be joyful about it. It's a great way to live.

3. Capitalism and the Free Enterprise system are the best economic system for mankind. Only it provides, in the words of Jeremy Bentham, the greatest good for the greatest number. Other systems, such as communism, socialism and mixed systems, are all fatally flawed. They are also the antithesis to freedom. Just be a student and look at history. All of these systems are doomed to fail, eventually. They run counter to the way man works, if he is left alone to pursue his own good. It takes courage, faith, and strengh. Communism and socialism are the way for the power-hungry, the weak, the cowardly, and the enslaved. Anytime you give permission for somebody else to run your life, you don't have permission to complain. Stand up for yourself, stand up for your family. Thank God for America. Even Putin admitted that the World needs America.

I welcome discussion of these various points, as long as you can base your views on what you think, not what you feel... Feelings are illusory and temporary; good solid thought is eternal.

Have a good day and may God bless all of you.

Fr. Stephen