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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

LUX

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                                                                        

Voca Me Domine

 Voca Me, Domine

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

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

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

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

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

-S.E.S.
Trinitytide, 2006


Easter Paen

Easter Paean

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

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

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


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




Proof

 Proof

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

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

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

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

-S.E.S.
Trinitytide, 2006


Birth of Days

Birth of Days

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                                    -S.E.S.+
                                                                                    Epiphanytide, 2005    
                                                                       
                                               


                                                            

Behold Emmanuel!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question: What is thy duty towards God?

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

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

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



[1] Mark 1:2-3