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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Conflict, Within and Without

Sexagesima 2010
Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Barnabas Anglican Church
February 07, 2010

2 Corinthians 11:19 9 For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.

Thus opens this particular passage from II Corinthians, as the Apostle Paul now finds himself under attack from the very congregations he planted so laboriously at Corinth. I say “congregations” because Corinth turned out to be one of St. Paul’s very successful church plantings, resulting in several congregations, actually house churches of various sizes, all over the city. Recall how that in 1st Corinthians, Paul complained that the church at Corinth was threatening to break into factions, some following Paul, others following Apollos, and others Cephas. Thus, it seemed that that the church had growth problems, which lent themselves to bickering over leadership and other issues.

Evidently, the church at Corinth had something else, too: pride. As you know from your church history, Corinth was a prosperous city with a strong economy. This was owed in part to its strategic location. One source says, “Corinth was located directly south of the Corinthian Gulf, on the Peloponnesian side (southern Greece) of the Isthmus of Corinth. Two harbors accommodated the city's position of control over the isthmus between two seas. Lechaeum served the westward facing the Corinthian gulf, and Cenchreae functioned as the harbor on the eastward facing the Saronic Gulf.” In addition, “Not surprisingly the city derived income from its control of the isthmus. A charge was imposed for boats or cargo hauled on a platform across the isthmus on the "Diolkos," a paved road.” They actually hauled boats and ships across this narrow strip of land for a fee.

It must also be noted that Paul’s congregation was varied and diverse, including the noveau riche of Corinth, working men, slaves and freedmen. This diversity naturally led to a rich, but heterogeneous church congregation. A mix of peoples, occupations and incomes such as this expressed itself in many differing views and opinions, no doubt some of them very strongly felt, and many of them concerning the Apostle himself. This is the position He found himself when he penned the second Corinthian epistle.

The pride the Corinthians felt was coupled with a misdirected sense of leadership. Paul goes on to say: “For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. ” In saying this, Paul sets up a choice and a dichotomy that many of us in the Body of Christ face from time to time.

How could this be? What situation in the early Church could have triggered such a statement? Simply, it was the fact that soon after the Church was founded, many false preachers and religious charlatans approached the early congregations. Speaking wonderful words and projecting a holy and pious presence, these men, many of them rank heretics, appeared at many of the meeting places and sought to sway the congregations. Taking advantage of both the simplicity and generosity of the early Christians, these religious con men sought not only hospitality, but wages as well. Contrast this to Paul’s claim that he sought nothing from them but their earnest faith in God. He emphasized that he supported himself, as he told us in “I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. 34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.” Paul also states that he ”robbed other churches” to help support the Corinthian mission effort. By this he obviously meant that he used general church funds to subsidize them.
Again, contrast that with the openly avaricious itinerant preachers descending on the Corinthians.

What is the point of this to us? How can we benefit today from the struggles of a 1st century Greek church? Simply this: earlier we mentioned that St. Paul had set up a dichotomy and a choice that we all face some time or another in life.
This dichotomy is the choice of two paths, ultimately. One path is the tried, true, ancient, and honorable doctrine and beliefs of traditional Christianity, while the other is the lure of the new, the sensational, and the exciting “new frontiers” that mankind constantly seeks. The one, old and burnished with age, may be battered and besieged with the onslaughts of the New Morality, yet it stands. The New, while claiming to be something fresh, is simply the old traps laid out by Our Enemy below, that nevertheless succeed in snaring those souls bereft of Gospel armor.

Let me provide a current example. We are all aware of the alarming rate of teen and underage pregnancies in this country. Several approaches have tried to combat this problem, including safe sex seminars, free contraception giveaways, and sex education in general. Most have mixed results, to the point that some large school systems have adopted a “if you can’t beat ‘em, then join ‘em attitude.” They have, in effect, thrown up their hands. Then, lo and behold, a new study has just appeared that shows one approach has had good success in places where it has been funded and applied. That approach is called abstinence training. In response to this new study, the anti-abstinence forces are furious. Recently, a reporter shoved a microphone in front of a 12-year-old girl who was participating in abstinence training. When the reporter demanded if the girl thought that abstinence training really worked, she coolly replied, “Every time it’s tried.” Are we surprised?

Let us return to the Corinthians and draw a lesson from their situation. Just as people can choose the time-honored, but rarely practiced abstinence before marriage versus the new frontiers of societal libertinism, the Corinthians had a choice. They could continue to honor the teachings and moral example of their apostle and founder, St. Paul, or they could embrace the new, the fresh, and erroneous teaching of the new voices in their midst. This is exactly why St. Paul upbraids the congregation by telling them that they must be wise, because they put up with fools. John Calvin says this: “For ye bear with fools willingly. He calls them wise -- in my opinion, ironically. He was despised by them, which could not have been, had they not been puffed up with the greatest arrogance 7 He says, therefore- "Since you are so wise, act the part of wise men in bearing with me, whom you treat with contempt, as you would a fool." Hence I infer, that this discourse is not addressed to all indiscriminately, but some particular persons are reproved, who conducted themselves in an unkind manner.” Here they have the greatest Evangelist known to the Christian world, one who lovingly planted their congregations and fed them even with other churches’ funds, only to find himself vilified and dismissed as a fool. This is, once again, a fine example of fallen human nature at work.
The extent of St. Paul’s sense of injury is so immense that he even proceeds to rehearse his qualifications for the Corinthian church. He is “compelled” to boast, as he later tells us, of his sufferings for Christ. They are immense, only to be described as incredible to anyone who had not had the irresistible conversion experience that St. Paul underwent on the Damascus Road. To sum up his sufferings, he was beaten five times with the requisite 39 stripes, he was beaten with rods three times, stoned once, and suffered shipwreck three times. He suffered hunger, thirst, privation and danger, both from the Gentiles and the Jews. He was exhausted, sometimes sleepless and constantly harried on many fronts.
On top of these external dangers and troubles, Paul had the daily pressure of care for the churches. Sometimes, when I feel a bit stressed, I read this passage and realize that it is all very, very good. The only time I personally have shed blood for our Lord was during a church cleaning session when an old sanctuary lamp shattered in my hands! I daresay there is no comparision….
What we are talking about is not a new or even novel message in any way. It is, in the words of our Presiding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Leonard Riches, not even old-fashioned enough to please our Lord. He addressed the presbyters and delegates in that fashion, saying that it could be a problem if we are not that old-fashioned.
Rather than run after the effervescent, even nebulous directives, whims and fads of a lost society, let us hold to the old, the tried, the true, and the tested. Our Lord doesn’t change; He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We need to be the same.
Refresh yourselves in the old and rich. Read the Scriptures every day. At least once a year, read the Thirty-Nine Articles to get a flavor of the strong intellectual underpinnings and vibrant faith of the Anglican Fathers. Meditate on your salvation with uplifted heart and eyes. Give thanks that God has chosen you, despite your sins and failings, to enjoy life with Him forever. Never let that fade from your heart.
We Christians are a blessed people. We are fortunate beyond our deserving. We are saved without merit, forgiven beyond measure, and strengthened beyond belief for a life of love and service.
This is not a new message. It is as old as Christianity itself, and yet as fresh as the purest sunrise in the first days of spring, when all the Earth celebrates the ever-present Glory of God.
Glory be to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, now and for ever. AMEN

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Calling and Justice

Calling and Justice

Septuagesima 2010
Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Barnabas Anglican Church
Jan. 31, 2010

Matthew 20:9-10 9 "And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 "But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius.”

Our Gospel for the day clearly illustrates a concept from Isa. 55:8, as the LORD informs Israel: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.” Consider this in terms of what we consider fair and what the Lord knows to be right.

With that thought in mind, allow me to pose some questions: what is “fair?” Who came up with the doctrine of “fairness?” Who even said that life had to be “fair?” Have you ever heard someone say, “That’s not fair!”Believe me, as a schoolteacher, I hear that a great deal from my class, especially when homework is involved

In reality, it actually seems that we do have an idea of what being fair is all about. If we could hazard a guess, it might have something to do with a sense of justice. Seeking a definition for “fair”, we find the following: “free from favoritism or self-interest or bias or deception; conforming to established standards or rules; "a fair referee"; a "fair deal." Thus, fairness and justice have a common link.

Although I am not a philosopher by training, sometimes in life we must turn to philosophy to try to gain an understanding of why things are as they are. In this case, we must consider from where comes this underlying sense of justice.
How it is that man has a sense of justice? Can one describe justice? For answer, let me quote the Rev. Frank Levi, our REC rector in Chicago, who teaches an ethics course at seminary. He once said, “One has difficulty defining justice, but no one has difficulty knowing what injustice feels like.” What an amazing statement and how true…

If one can, without difficulty, feel injustice, there must be some underlying moral reason for it. That is, something in Man senses injustice and pursues justice. Again, we all know what it feels like when someone deals with us unjustly. With that in agreement, let us beg the question: what is it in man that triggers this response? How it is that even an unjust man knows the difference between justice and injustice? Is it that the man who is so used to unjust dealing with others is hyper-sensitive to those pertaining to his own interest? Is it that way with all of us? Are justice and its flip-side, injustice, merely a case of guarding our own self-interest?

These are questions worth pondering, even without the guarantee that we can arrive at an answer. We can, however, posit at least two observations. The first deals with the humanist side of the issue and the other, the God-centered one. The humanist will claim that it is merely a part of the innate nature of man, that since people are basically good, they will seek justice and the general welfare of mankind. This is true, of course, once they have learned to be good with the requisite education and training. Like the modern ethics courses in corporations that were so popular a few years ago, some think that good ethical behavior is simply a matter of being taught the right things. Evidently, some brilliant minds thought that one could be taught not to steal from one’s employer or corporation. While this is laudable and maybe even praiseworthy in its goals of reforming the corporate rascals, it is ultimately foolish and futile. Fallen human nature will do as fallen human nature will do.
On the other hand, the Christian knows better. He or she knows the source of justice is not the limited, finite nature of man, but rather the infinite Mind of God. The sense of justice and the desire to treat and be treated fairly is not a human concept, but a divine one. How can a limited, finite and error-prone being such as Man come up with an impeccable concept like justice? The answer is simple: he didn’t. Only the divine can invent the divine and so it is with an intangible reality like justice. It can’t be touched or handled, but it is a real, living reality in our lives.

Yet, this being said, it is a mystery how we know from our infancy the knowledge of justice vs. injustice. We are simply “hard wired” that way. Some theologians believe that since our Creator is just, and since we are created in His Image, we too are cognizant of this reality. We know that justice and injustice are just as real as the floor on which we stand. We all know that justice is the undergirding of civilization, the quality that makes reciprocity possible. Without the ability to deal with other in some sort of equitable basis, all would be chaos and violence.

On a divine level, justice rises to an ultimate degree. That is, justice and the quality of being just is an attribute of God. Only He is capable of being completely just and ensuing ultimate justice. Let’s consider the ramifications of this.

If true justice is of God, that gives it both a beautiful and a terrible quality. It is beautiful in that it is absolute and unchanging. It is also terrible in that it is absolute and unchanging. Thus, when one sins against God, payment must be made. Conversely, when one is found acceptable in the sight of God, rewards and blessedness is the consequence.

The reaction to this by our human sensibilities is simply this: “What? God is supposed to all merciful and all suffering.
How can He demand payment, when we, from our foibles and mis-direction, commit sin against Him? Who can pay such a debt?”

Exactly. This is the point that ultimately draws the distinction between God and Man. Sinning against an all-holy and completely good Being who, at the same time, is completely just, has consequences. Although we do not consider our sins worthy of punishment, God does. We, who are of such a fallen nature that we take our sins for granted, as a part of life, do not really see ourselves as sinners in the way God does. Only He can see the true nature of our being. Recall that Christ responded to the rich young ruler who called him good by saying, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God." That being said, How can we respond to a completely just God, with only our lives and our sinful natures in our hands?

If it were up to us, our cause would be lost. We can only pay for our sins with that which is inherent in us, our lives. Complete and ultimate justice, being completely balanced in terms of offense and repayment, demands this. If left to our own devices, we would be lost.

Admittedly, this was hard for me at one time to accept, especially when I had heard all my life that God was a loving God, one who forgave all offenses without number. How could He demand ultimate payment? After all, He’s God, while I am a mere human. Why, it’s simply not fair!

Once again, this is exactly the point. What’s fair to God is not fair to Man. Here’s why. God, being absolutely just, and at the same time absolutely good, does not demand justice from us. He doesn’t require us to pay for our sins with our lives. Instead, he paid for our sins with His life. Look again at Christ on the Cross in this respect. He paid the price so that we wouldn’t be required to pay it.
Looking at this in another light, it could have been that God would require us to pay for our sins with our lives. It could have been that God would say to each of us at the Day of Judgment, “You have sinned against my Absolute and Complete Holiness; thus you shall die.” This is justice, albeit one that is difficult for us humans to accept. Without Christ, this would be the way it would be.

God being God, however, this is not the way it will be. Simply because God is who He is, his Justice is tempered with absolute mercy. It is not that He didn’t stay true to Himself regarding justice; he did. It is only that He Himself paid the price to satisfy the requirement of His own absolute nature. As mind numbing as it may sound, God both set the standard for which all dealings must be made, the standard of absolute integrity, and then paid the price to keep it true to those standards. This is the difference between Man and God. Man can only attempt to strive towards justice and exact punishment or retribution to compensate for wrong. God has not only defined justice, he also achieved its ultimate perfection. This perfection, this universal satisfaction, is embodied in the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thus, when we, like the workers in the vineyard, exclaim “It’s not fair!” Let us rethink the situation. Let us consider the nature and quality of our calling in God.
Are we murmuring against God because we are laboring in the vineyard longer than others? Do we perceive ourselves somehow more worthy than they because we have labored longer? Do we even secretly resent those who are called late in life to salvation? We trust not that it is so. When we consider the “just” reward of our sins and negligences, it is amazing that any of us are called at all to work in the vineyard. Those of us who are called and come to labor will receive the same reward, regardless of the timing of our call. We, who trust in Christ for our salvation, will receive the most just reward of all, that of God Himself.
It is something that we do not deserve. It is something that we do not merit. It is simply the consequence of an all-loving God being true to Hinself.

For that, we offer endless thanks and praise. For that, we acknowledge the ultimate distinction between God and Man.

Matthew 20:15: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?”

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to Holy Ghost, now and for ever.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mary Lynch Fuller Hintzel Eulogy

The Rev’d Stephen E. Stults
February, 2011

”Celebration of Mary Lynch Fuller Hintzel”

“In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost….”

“My mommy has gone home to be with Jesus.” These are the simple and ringing words uttered by a little boy whose mother had just departed this earth. These are words full of faith and hope, said with all the fullness of youth and hope.

What could inspire a five-year old to say such a beautiful, yet profound statement? How could he have such a simple, yet sincere faith that speaks volumes to the adults around him? When you consider whose son he is, the answer is apparent.

That boy is Perry Hintzel, son of Mary Lynch Fuller Hintzel. We honor her memory today as we commemorate her entry into everlasting life. She who had suffered long is now enveloped in the loving embrace of Jesus. This is an embrace she will enjoy forever, world without end. Amen.

It was my extreme honor and privilege to know Mary, if only for a short while. Soon after my tenure began as Vicar of St. Barnabas, her health began to seriously decline. Yet, even for those short months that we were acquainted, my life experience was enriched.

Mary was a founding member of St. Barnabas Anglican Church. She was instrumental in helping her father, whom you all know, due to his long service in educating the young people of Bellville, into taking a leap of faith.
This leap of faith involved planting an orthodox expression of historic Christianity here in Bellville. Bill often mentions that Mary was especially desirous to be known as one of the first members of our church.

You all knew Mary Lynch Fuller Hintzel as an outstanding student, a fine musician, and a young person of excellent character. Unfortunately, she never fully completed her education, due to her untimely illness and eventual demise. I talked with Mary on several occasions, and was always impressed by her mental acuity, deep insights, and of course, her vibrant faith. In that regard, she lit up those around her with her belief. She was a devout Christian and a very Spirit-filled young woman.

It is to that deep, rich, abiding faith in Jesus Christ that we speak today, especially because of Mary and in the context of her last three years upon this earth. As you know, Mary was visited with a mysterious ailment that baffled the doctors. It was something that took her earthly life away, but not her indomitable spirit and faith.
As the months went by, and operation after operation was performed, Mary never once lost faith in a cure; then, as the months crept by and that cure became more elusive, she never lost hope of her eternal destination. Through thick and thin, she remained hopeful and strong, inspiring those around her and lending credence to St. Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 12:10 “ Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” While no one could ever claim Mary took pleasure in her infirmities, for not of one here could do that, it is certain that as her body grew weaker, her spirit waxed stronger and stronger in Christ. She often told her father and mother, “I’m not afraid to die.”

What a wonderful declaration of faith and trust! What a ringing testimony to her vibrant and dynamic faith in Jesus Christ! Finally, what a witness for all of here today….

How could Mary Lynch Fuller Hintzel be possessed with such sure and certain knowledge of her resurrection in Jesus Christ? How could one so young be blessed in such a way? As her bodily health began to decay, how was it that her faith didn’t? Not only did her faith not decay, nor did it falter, but it grew stronger, even as her health failed her. How many of us here could do the same? It is not an easy question. One of Mary’ favorite contemporary songs was by a group called the Dillards. She especially like the lyrics of this song, from which she drew inspiration:

Jesus, come and hold my hand
While I walk this rocky road,
Traveling to a better land
Where my friends will meet me I know.
Oh, I'll soon be on my way.
Seems every time I kneel to pray
I hear my friends calling me.
In the home above happy I'll be.
I'm so tired and all alone,
But I must keep traveling on.
I'll keep going until I die;
I'll meet my friends up there on high.
When I reach that home on high
And bid my troubles on earth goodbye,
I'll be glad this life is o'er;
This rocky road I'll walk no more.

This is touching and profound. Yet, asking again how was it that her faith didn’t leave her, as her bodily strength did? As one of our former presidents once said, “The answer is simple; it’s just not easy.” Mary Fuller worked at her faith. That is, she did three things: she immersed herself in the Word of God; she worshipped regularly with fellow believers as long as she was able, and she prayed daily. Her reward here was a faith that was so deep and rich that it not only gave her comfort during her sickness, but it also strengthened her to the very end of her earthly life.

You see, Mary’s God is your God, if you want Him to be. Her Jesus is your Jesus, just for the asking. Her Holy Spirit is your Holy Spirit, to facilitate your faith. Her Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost is your Holy Trinity, there to strengthen you, guide you, comfort you and inspire you. Her Lord can be your Lord, if only you desire it.

Mary is in bliss now; of that we are certain. She is most certainly home, in the truest home one can ever imagine. C. S. Lewis tells us that Heaven will be the place we always wanted to get to, but were unable to imagine. We will simply know it when we get there. It will be like we have always been there and will always be there. Why? Simply because Jesus Himself told us: (John 14:2) 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” What wonderful words, so full of love and joy. This is our God. He goes to prepare a place for us, for you and me.

Christ also said, Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
This is our Christ: standing, as it were, at the door of Heaven, with His arms wide open, beckoning us to come it and be with Him.

For another, more glorious picture of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, let us picture Him on His throne in Heaven, being adored by millions of faithful souls who are at home in His Glory. This is the same Jesus who was born as one of us, who taught us, healed us, reproved us, corrected us, and finally died for us on the Cross in Golgotha. This same Jesus loves Mary more that she could ever know while she was on this earth. This same Jesus loves you more than you can possibly imagine. This same Jesus loves us also much that He gave literally everything so that you and I might be with Him forever.

Let us ponder this momentous and powerful thought for just a minute. Let us try to imagine a love so deep, so genuine, and so profound that it literally fills you completely completing every imperfection and every need, forever.

This is the love that Mary Lynch Fuller Hintzel is now experiencing. It is the love that she will know for all eternity, world without end.

If she were with us in body today, she would wish that all of us claim that blessed hope and high calling that is ours just for the asking. She would want us to have what she now has in everlasting abundance. She would want all of us to know the complete and utter love that is hers forever.

Let us pray:

Lord, we give thee hearty and heartfelt thanks for the life of Mary Lynch Fuller Hintzel. We thank thee for lending her to us, even for so brief a time, as she enriched all of our lives and helped us all to feel more alive. We bless thee, Lord, for showering on Mary the love that only Thou can give. Most of all, dear Lord, we thank thee for the knowledge of our life in Thee. Help us to love Thee more and more, and, as we grow in age, help us to grow in grace. Finally, Lord, we ask for the help of Thy Holy Spirit every day of our lives to grow closer to thee, until finally, in the fullness of time, we stand before thee, not in fear, but in the sure and certain confidence that thou art our Intercessor, our Mediator, and our eternal Friend. All this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, are one God, world without end. AMEN.

“Thine O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory and the majesty; for all that is in the heaven and the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and Thou are exalted as head above all.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Do All in the Name of the Lord Jesus

The Rev’d. Stephen E. Stults
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
St. Barnabas Anglican Church
Feb. 6, 2011

“Do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus…”

Colossians 3:14 “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness”
Colossians 3:17 “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

We have some very powerful instruction from the Apostle Paul today in his message to the church at Colossae. Yet, for background, before we consider any of that, let us have a brief review of the historicity of Colossae. According to Dr. James Orr, it was “a city of Phrygia on the Lycus River, one of the branches of the Meander, and 3 miles from Mt. Cadmus, 8,013 ft. high. It stood at the head of a gorge where the two streams unite, and on the great highway traversing the country from Ephesus to the Euphrates valley, 13 miles from Hierapolis and 10 from Laodicea. Its history is chiefly associated with that of these two cities. Early, according to both Herodotus and Xenophon, it was a place of great importance. There Xerxes stopped 481 BC (Herodotus vii.30) and Cyrus the Younger marched 401 BC (Xen. Anab. i.2,6). From Col 2:1 it is not likely that Paul visited the place in person; but its Christianization was due to the efforts of Epaphras and Timothy (Col 1:1,7), and it was the home of Philemon and Epaphras.”

As such, St. Paul’s epistle to Colossae was one of his letters that survived the ravages of time and was considered worthy to be included in the Canon of Holy Scripture. We should be very glad that it did, for in this passage are some very powerful considerations for our personal Christian walk.

According to some commentators, Paul makes a significant shift in this passage from the exhortation to the Colossians to forsake their pagan idol worship and “voluntary humility and worshipping of angels” to a consideration of “the community’s conversion to virtue.”
That is, having taken the better part of Chapter One to teach about the true nature of Christ as Almighty God, co-eternal and co-existent with the Farther, he now turns to a treatment of the moral improvement and spiritual perfection of the Christian community in Colossae.
In so doing, he also gives us day-to-day instruction for our daily walk.

Concerning godly behavior, here is the key instruction, from Colossians 3:12-13: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

This is what the World mistakes as weakness from a Christian. That is, as we strive to be merciful, kind, meek (not overbearing), not thinking too much of ourselves, as well as patient, the World see these qualities as nice, but perhaps less than successful. Judging by this own preacher’s corporate experience, that often seemed to be the case.

Yet it is what we are called to be. Where cruelty prevails, we are to show mercy. Where mean-spiritedness is evident, we are to show kindness. As the worldly man seeks to embellish his ego as at costs, we are to be humble. Finally, where the world doesn’t suffer fools gladly, we are to bear long with those whom others might find tiresome.

St. Paul sums this up with a very timely phrase, from Colossians 3:14:“And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” Without going into a separate sermon on the meaning of “charity”, we all know what he means. Charity encompasses all of the foregoing qualities and virtues just mentioned: mercy, kindness, humility, and patience. It is the acme of good behavior between one person and another. Whereas many modern translations term charity as “love”, to this preacher’s mind that doesn’t quite put a good enough point on it. It may be possible to love somebody and still be rude to them, unfortunately. Look at the relationship some couples have, where they have traded courtesy for complacency; meaning they feel it not necessary any more to offer the usual niceties. Perhaps they have lost their charity one to another.

If so, it is not a good thing. You may share the sentiment that it is especially necessary to engage in excellent behavior, especially courtesy and charity, with those with whom we live. A long-married wife still appreciates it when her husband gets out and opens her car door for her, or seats her in a restaurant. Little things like that still count.

Yet, as important as our behavior is, one to another, St. Paul’s search for our perfection doesn’t simply end with our moral actions. We all know of religions where personal moral actions are seen as the way to salvation; whereas the true fallen-ness of our beings makes that impossible. Instead, St Paul tells us that we must let the “peace of God rule in our hearts”, which he says is our calling. Perfection comes from God, not man. We can never achieve true peace without Him.

To help achieve this peace, we must also “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” , as we teach each other and even admonish each other in the Lord. We should sing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to this end. In short, we need to worship together regularly. This sounds like a call to communal worship and liturgy, doesn’t it? In fact, it is. We know that liturgical and communal prayer is the most powerful prayer possible, as we, with one mind and spirit, pray for the same things. Through liturgy, we offer powerful, condensed praise, petition, intercession, and thanksgiving to Almighty God. God does not benefit from our prayers, although He wants them, for He knows just how much we need Him. Once we realize this too, our worship becomes a joy rather than just a weekly duty.

This brings us to the last and major point of this wonderful lesson from St. Paul. To many Christians, it sums up the thrust of their Christian walk with God on this earth. It is probably one of the most important directives that a Christian can hear. It says: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

This is a powerful directive! Imagine the spiritual energy generated when one does one’s work, one’s play, one’s study, and everything else in the Name of Jesus! This is what we are to do, while giving thanks for everything to the Holy Trinity.
Having this thought in mind while we engage in all of our daily activities could have a transforming effect on everything we do. It gives more power to the good that we attempt, while certainly exorcising the temptation to do other things. As ridiculous as this sounds, can you imagine a bank robber saying, “In the Name of Jesus I rob this bank!”? Certainly not, because we realize the likelihood of its happening is too remote. Yet, for those to whom Jesus is a day-to-day reality, it transforms even the smallest, most mundane job into a glorious duty for Christ.

You’ll recall that some time ago we related our experience with the writings of a writer-turned-monk named Thomas Merton. He once echoed St. Paul’s thought about doing everything for Christ when he talked about “being kicked around the monastery by love.” We think that he meant exactly that his everyday tasks now were glorified by the Name of Jesus. His daily existence basked in the presence of Christ. In so doing this, he felt the peace and love of God.

We all know how difficult this is as we all engage in our struggle against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Sometimes, it seems that the more we dedicate the day to Christ, the more things tend to go wrong. Yet, this too is ordained, in some mysterious and wonderful way. As hard as it is, God wants us to love Him and thank Him through good times and bad. He wants us to give thanks for all things, as tough as this may be. When we invoke the help of the Holy Spirit to do this, we are on the way to true peace, because we begin to learn that peace is not generated through external events, but through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Only that Presence can guarantee true peace that transcends external happenings.

Thus, when we train ourselves to do all that we do in the Name of the Lord Jesus, an amazing transformation will happen. We will have more purpose, more power, more direction, and more joy than ever before. This is the true freedom and the true joy that living in Christ brings. It also brings the wonderful peace of God. May this be our experience with God, now and forever.

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