Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity

Sermon for the Eighth Sunday After Trinity
10 August 2014
Holy Apostles Anglican Church, Pewaukee, WI
Mr. Zachary Braddock, Seminarian

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.- Rom 8:13

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holt Ghost. Amen.

Our Epistle reading this morning comes from the eighth chapter of Romans, wherein Paul is writing on our living our life in the Spirit. This takes place within a larger discourse on Sin, Righteousness, and Faith. Last Sunday we read from chapter six, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free Gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We skip over chapter seven and these poignant words in verses 18-20,” I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh . I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what i do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.” In this morning’s reading, St. Paul says, “So then Brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh- for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.”

The verse that always gets me is 7:19. “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” St. Augustine put it this way: “Non posse non peccarae.” “You are not able not to sin.” This is what we call original sin: Our very nature has been corrupted. Our very nature no longer wants that which we should want, communion with God. Rather, we turn to the world, the flesh, and the devil. We know we should not sin. We know that Pride, Anger, Lust, Envy, Greed, Avarice, and Sloth are wrong, and yet we do them. Pride is not just puffing up one’s chest and saying, “Look at me.” Pride us also deliberately putting one’s self into an occasion of sin and thinking one can beat the devil. Anger is not merely being upset over something- it is the feeding of one’s control of oneself to one’s passions. Lust is not only something sexual- one can lust just as easily after pizza, beer, or coffee.

This is why we have the discipline of fasting, the discipline of mortification; why we place such an emphasis on virtue; why God has given us, through the Church, the sacraments. Most of us were baptized as children. The Prayer Book says that in Baptism, sin is washed away and that we die to sin, and are raised to new life. That which has separated us from God and cut us off from communion with Him can be overcome through life in Christ- not by our own merits, but His merits and by His grace.

Paul says in the verse immediately preceding this morning’s reading that “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

So, we have a choice to make. Yes, we are fallen and affected by sin, but the choice to accept Christ is our own. How we live is up to us. In many ways, it is the little choices we make which have some of the greatest impacts on our spiritual lives. Quite often, people view sin as “those evil things which other people do”; things involving only marriages and money. Pride, Anger, Envy, and so forth can manifest themselves in so called, “little sins,” and yet they can build up, one on top of each other, and like dust on a mirror, eventually prevent us from seeing God.

Through Jesus, St. Paul says, we have received the “spirit of sonship.” He is not denigrating daughters here, but making a point- we have not only been adopted by God, but we have been made heirs. We have been made heirs of the Kingdom, and fellow heirs with Jesus, that we may come into His Kingdom. For us to receive our inheritance, we must accept that which has been freely offered: Grace. God is working to redeem us, and he has offered this to us, but we must accept it. Just as we are free to sin, we are free to reject sin and to embrace Our Lord.

The Evil One will do everything he can to entice you. He will come and whisper in your ear and tell you that things are ok, and that if you sin just this once, it will be ok. In this, he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as our Lord describes. Reject the Evil One. When he pursues us, we must cling to the Cross, in order that we may come into our inheritance, that we may produce good fruit.

Fortify yourselves. Make good use of the sacraments; train yourselves and those dear to you in the practice and in the habit of the virtues. In a few minutes you will come forward to receive our Lord in the Sacrament. Before you do this, you will be asked to confess your sins to almighty God, with the intent of living in charity with your neighbor, following God’s commandments, and walking in God’s ways. We will confess that we have sinned, and we will ask God to forgive us our offenses, and we will ask for help “to walk in newness of life”.

It is this walking “in newness of life” that we are to work out in our lives, that we may bear good fruit, and do the will of Almighty God, not only in the big things, the things involving marriage and money, but also in the mundane, ordinary, every-day things. If we allow ourselves to be faithful in the small things, it will make being faithful in the extraordinary things so much easier, and it will help us to see that to which all the saints, the martyrs, the prophets, and the patriarchs have pointed: the Vision Glorious. May we come to sing with Blessed John Keble:

Hail, gladdening Light, of His pure glory poured
Who is the immortal Father, heavenly, blest,
Holiest of Holies – Jesus Christ our Lord!
 
Now we are come to the sun’s hour of rest;

The lights of evening round us shine;

We hymn the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit divine!
 
Worthiest art thou at all times to be sung

With undefiled tongue,
Son of our God, giver of life, alone:

Therefore in all the world thy glories, Lord, they own.

 

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

Sermon for Trinity V

NB. This is a short sermon, which I wrote on a train the day before it was preached. I went a little farther, going off script towards the end, and then had the congregation sing “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”

Sermon for Trinity V
Holy Apostles Anglican Church
Seminarian Zachary Braddock
20 July 2014

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Do you remember when you first met Jesus Christ? For some of us, it may have been at our baptism, with Jesus known through the faith of our parents and godparents. For others, it may have been when you went to the bishop for confirmation, or when you had an experience which God used to bring you to faith. In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus gets into Simon Peter’s boat and preaches, then tells him to let his nets down and catch fish, though he has been fishing all night to no avail. Peter does what Jesus instructs, and is so overwhelmed by the amount of fish which he catches, that he kneels before Jesus in the boat and says, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus responds by telling Peter that no longer will he catch fish, but men.

Surely, Jesus does not mean that Peter will wander from the Sea of Galilee to a lonely hilltop outside Rome collecting people in nets. No, what Jesus is doing here is calling Peter to help build his church, to evangelize and spread the good news of salvation.

Because we know that the Scriptures are not addressed merely to those to whom the original documents were written, but are the Word of God Written and the record of God’s saving deed’s in history; and because the Church has consistently taught this, we know that this is not said merely to Saint Peter, but you and I as well. It is our job to be fishers of men!

If you want a fish, what do you do? You don’t sit at a table and wait for a fish to swim up and get on your plate ready for dinner. You go and get it. Now for most of us, this means going to Walmart or Pick-n-Save; but to a first-century Palestinian Jew in the backwater of the Roman Empire (and still to many people around the world today) this means going out and catching, cleaning, and cooking the fish. To draw a bit of an analogy, we who would be fishers of men and who would build the church cannot wait for people to come through our doors- We must go and get them. We must fish.

Do you remember when you first met Jesus Christ? Do you remember the joy of being a new Christian? Do you remember the joy of being at the baptism of a new baby, the wonder of witnessing someone being grafted onto the body of Christ?

Brothers and sisters, this is our calling. We cannot afford to sit idly by, hoping that the church will grow and that endowments form, and collection plates fill themselves. It is our responsibility to respond to our Lord’s calling, “Come, follow me.” We, like Saint Peter, must be fishers of men.

Homily for Candlemas

A Sermon for the Feast of Candlemas
Mr. Zachary Braddock, Seminarian
Holy Apostles Anglican Church
2 Feb 2014

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

We celebrate this morning the last feast of Christmas. This is one of the oldest commemorations on our calendar, and we can see this from the great proliferation of names which it has accumulated: The Presentation of Christ in the Temple; The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Candlemas; The Meeting of the Lord.
Today, forty days after we commemorate Jesus’s birth in a stable, we read in The Gospel according to St. Luke that Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, as good Jewish parents always did for their first born son, as the Law commanded. Make no mistake, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph make a small, but obedient Jewish family. There they meet an old man named Simeon. Simeon takes up the child Jesus in his arms and he says, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
There is a lot in the scripture readings this morning. But there are two main things i want to focus on.
First, Throughout this Epiphany season, our readings have concentrated on the revelation of Christ. On Epiphany itself, we read how a star led the gentile wise men from the east to bethlehem, where they offered gifts and fell down and worshipped the Christ child.
The next Sunday, our Gospel reading was the story of the boy Jesus in the Temple, staying behind after his parents left to hear the teachers and converse with them.
On the Second Sunday after Epiphany, we fast forward twenty or so years to Jesus’ baptism; where, upon his rising from the water, the Holy Spirit appears as a dove and the Father says from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Last Sunday was the Wedding at Cana of Galilee, where Jesus performed his first miracle. We are told in the Gospel according to John that Jesus manifested forth his glory in doing this, and that because of this sign, Jesus’ disciples believed.
Today, Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the temple. A devout and holy man of Jerusalem, named Simeon came in at the same time. Simeon’s desire was to see the Lord’s Christ, which he had been told by God that he would see before his death. When Simeon takes the child up in his arms, he says:
LORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, etc.
Simeon then says to Mary: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel…” He also also says to her, “A sword shall pierce your own heart also.” Jesus’s earthly life, his birth, his preaching, his death, and his resurrection, this earthly life is the hinge on which history hangs. There is a reason we count years AD, or Anno Domini… “The year of our Lord.” Mary, the mother of our Lord, is presumably the only person who saw the entirety of this life. And this is the woman to fed carried Jesus in her womb, nursed him at her breast, saw him take his first steps, and saw his entire life, up to and including his hanging on a cross and his rising from the dead. It is incredible enough to read about it and to experince it through the life of the Church two thousand years later. To witness your own son living that life… A sword piercing the heart indeed…
Before they leave the temple, an eighty-four year old propphetess named Anna meets them and she predicts that he will be the redemption of Israel. This child is barely forty days old. And yet he has been worshipped by the Magi, and identified as Messiah by Simeon and Anna. Not to mention Mary and Joseph. We can only imagine their thoughts at this time.
My second point is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. I’ve known a number of people who have argued, quite heatedly, that Jesus was not Jewish. He must be Jewish. If Jesus is not, then the Gospels do not make sense.
It is for this reason that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are going to the temple in the first place. Mary, being sinless, has no need of purification. And yet she goes up. Jesus, being the Son of God has no need to be “made holy for the Lord,” for he himself is the Lord, just as he has no need of Baptism. And yet, they submit to the law, for as Jesus will say later in his life at the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
And so here my two points tie together. The Epiphany has also been called the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. If you recall, there is some consternation in the Acts of the Apostles and in some of Paul’s epistles as to whether or not a gentile could be a Christian or wether he or she must become a Jew first. Simeon tells us this morning, that Jesus is to be a light to enlighten the gentiles and is to be the glory of Israel, in the New Israel, the church.
We, my brothers and sisters, are to be the New Israel. We are to carry the light of Christ out into the world. As our prayer earlier this morning at the blessing of the candles said, as our candles cast beams of light upon us, so we ask God to send the Holy Spirit to enlighten our hearts.
There are times when this world is a scary place. There are times I consider getting cable and then hear about Disney channel’s newest idea and quickly decide that, no, I’m fine without it. There are times when the sin that is so evident in the world, or evident in myself, is simply terrifying. I’m sure all you have seen and experienced this. But we cannot despair. We must have faith, and we must have hope. We must have hope, because Christ is the light which illuminates all things, and dispels all darkness. Take your candles out into the world with you, and take your souls, full of the Holy Spirit, and light the world on fire for Christ.

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

Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

A Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

18 August 2013

Holy Apostles Anglican Church, Pewaukee, WI

Mr. Zachary Braddock, Seminarian

 

Let him who has ears to hear, hear;  he who has eyes to read, read.

“And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, be opened.” (Mark 7:34)

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

What happens in the Gospel this morning? Jesus sticks his fingers in a man’s ears and spits on his tongue. And the man’s deafness and muteness is healed. This could easily be a miracle story, with accompanying sermon on healing. Alternately, at the end of the reading, the crowd is saying, “He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.”[1] This could be taken as a sign of Jesus’ power and majesty and a sermon preached accordingly. Or, I think, one could take the account in Mark 7:31 allegorically. Consider the man to be representative of those who have not heard the Gospel; those who have not been grafted onto the Body of Christ and enabled to proclaim by both deed and word, the Good News of Salvation. By the action of Jesus, this changes. Allegorically, then, this story could be seen as Jesus entering the world and acting. And again, a sermon could be preached accordingly. And that, my dear brothers and sisters, is precisely what I mean to preach.

As Anglicans, we have an oft repeated maxim: Richard Hooker’s three legged stool: Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, which together form our methodology for solving theological issues. But Hooker never used the analogy of a stool, rather listing the three “legs” as sources of authority, the greatest of which was Scripture. [2] Scripture must therefore be the foundation upon which Tradition and Reason stand- the tradition which we pass on must not contradict Holy Scripture, else the contradicting element must be excised. Anything that is part of Holy Tradition, such as the belief that Our Lady was assumed into heaven at the end of her earthly life, that cannot be proven by Scripture, cannot be held to be necessary for salvation. This is one of the fundamental tenants of Anglicanism, as part of the Sixth Article of Religion. The written word of God, as the Article further states, and as every Deacon, Priest, and Bishop is required to affirm before ordination, “contains all things necessary to salvation.”[3] The Affirmation of St. Louis defines the Scriptures as, “The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the authentic record of God’s revelation of Himself, His saving activity, and moral demands – a revelation valid for all men and all time.” So you see, in Anglicanism, the Holy Scriptures are vitally important.

If the Scriptures are therefore a way in which God speaks to us and reveals his glory and his plan for the world, it would seem to be very important that we be in the Scriptures, day in and day out. Indeed, what does the collect for the Second Sunday in Advent say in reference to the scriptures? “Grant that we may read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.” Now, if you’re anything like me, you don’t spend enough time doing this. It’s all too easy for me to say, “Well, I heard a reading from the Old Testament at Morning Prayer, and two from the New Testament at Mass, and I’ll hear two more this afternoon.” It IS all too easy, because how easy is it for me to let my mind wander, to let my mind drift? Again, if you’re like me… it’s far too easy.

And so what I need to do, is to make sure that I am opening my Bible everyday. And that I am prayerfully reading. To be honest, I don’t know if it matters if I am reading and studying sequentially- or if I am merely reading… and studying… and praying… the readings for the office for that day. What is important is that I am allowing myself to be drawn into the story of redemption. The Scriptures are the story of the creation of the universe; the story of Abraham becoming the Father of many nations; of Israel going down into Egypt and coming out again in the Exodus and going through the Red Sea after the Passover, prefiguring the redemptive acts of Christ. The Journey in the desert, the Rise and Fall of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, their monarchies and their exiles. The baby born in Jerusalem who shattered the paradigm and turned creation not so much up on end, but right side up, through his life, his passion, his death and resurrection. The Descent of the Holy Ghost and the creation of the Ecclesia, the community of faithful Christians, the church. The creation of this… This body gathered here emerges from the Scriptures. They are that important and relevant for our life.

It is into this story that I am absorbed when I read the Scriptures. To echo my quote from the Affirmation of St. Louis earlier, they are the “authentic record of God’s revelation.” All our doctrines are based on Scripture. This is as it must be, because through this authentic record, preserved by the church, we come to know God; who he is and what he has done. God speaks through the Scriptures. Through sending his son, he has opened our ears. All we have to do is listen. When we stop listening, when we throw out the Scriptures, we lose Jesus. If we ignore the Scriptures, then we completely miss Jesus. I implore you, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them. We have been given a road map. In a confused world which is not oriented toward God, it will guide us.

To the One who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning be praise and honor, worship and dominion, now and forever. Amen.


[1] Mark, 7:37

[2] Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity

[3] 39 Articles, article 6, BCP 603

Homily for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity

A Homily for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity

4 August 2013

Holy Apostles Anglican Church, Pewaukee, WI

Mr. Zachary Braddock, Seminarian

“And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but you have made it a den of thieves. And he taught daily in the temple.”

(Luke 19:45, 46, 47)

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

It is perhaps fortuitous that this gospel reading ended up on this particular Sunday. Or, then again, maybe God has a sense of humor. I say that, because on Tuesday, we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, wherein we get a glimpse of the Uncreated Light, which is God. I say that, because while Jesus is on Mount Tabor with the Apostles and with Moses and Elijah, and while he is transfigured, God confirms that Jesus is His son.  But what connection between Jesus’ actions this morning and the transfiguration?

I don’t know how many of you know who Reza Aslan is. If you’ve never heard of him, you will know of him soon. He’s written a new book, called Zealot, which is ostensibly about Jesus Christ. To give you some context, Aslan is a Muslim scholar who specializes in New Testament Studies. But his argument in the book, is that Jesus is not divine, is not the Son of God, and never claimed to be. He said as much this past week in an interview on Fox News. The reason I bring him up is that the accusation that Jesus was not truly God incarnate (which we of course believe to be absolute truth), but that he was rather an “enlightened teacher”, a “prophet”, a “good old pal who wants us to be nice to each other,” is one that is often; and increasingly, thrown around.

Aslan cites two specific episodes in the gospel. One, the cleansing of the Temple, is mentioned in this morning’s gospel lesson. Jesus drives out those who are selling and declares, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’”. The other occurs in the next chapter. It is in Luke 20 where Jesus is recorded as say, “render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God the things that are Gods.” According to Aslan, Jesus never once claims to be Divine.

Scripture, however, tells us a different story. In Scripture, there is no dividing Christ into “the historical Jesus” and “the Christ of Faith.” What you have… is Jesus the Christ. Now, there is nothing wrong with studying Jesus this way from an academic perspective, indeed; this can be helpful. But when the academies have been worn away by time and all you have left is Holy Mother Church, and the Jesus which she hands us at Baptism… you will have Jesus the Christ.

In John’s account of Jesus’ life, we see this clearly. John describes in his prologue of how, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the word became flesh… and dwelt among us.” These familiar words, which we hear Sunday after Sunday proclaim a radical truth: That the infinite entered the finite. Jesus himself makes this claim. In John, chapter 8, verse 58, he says, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Not only is he here saying that he existed before Abraham, any Jew who heard him speak would immediately make a connection with God appearing to Moses in the Burning Bush. In chapter five, verses seventeen and eighteen, he calls God his Father… and claims equality with him. In the second chapter of the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus explicitly claims the title of “Son of Man”, and proclaims that he has the authority to forgive sins. And then he does so, telling the paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven… and telling him to rise… and walk. But God is the one who forgives sins, as the prophet Isaiah    reminds us.

Jesus claims at least twice, some authority over the Temple in Jerusalem. In the second chapter of Luke, when he is twelve he remains in the Temple after his parents have departed, and refers to it as “his father’s house.” As he approaches Jerusalem for his Passion, he cleanses the Temple, as we read this morning.

On Tuesday morning, we celebrate Morning Prayer for the Feast of the Transfiguration. If you were to read the lessons for the Mass, however, you would read that Jesus goes up on Mount Tabor with Peter, and James, and John; the Apostolic “inner circle”, as it were. While Jesus prays on the mountain, his appearance changes, and the Apostles see Him in his glory. They see Jesus arrayed in the Uncreated Light. And as this happens, they hear God speaking from Heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son…”

Is it any wonder that the Pharisees wanted Jesus stoned? Is it any wonder that when Jesus was brought before Pilate that he was presented as going against Caesar? He was, my brothers and sisters, claiming just what the Church has always taught that he claimed: that he was the Son of God, the Word incarnate. Jesus is not claiming to be a “good teacher”. He is quite clear. Either he is, in fact, who he says he is, or he is insane.

Those who deny that Jesus is who he says he is are not new. The tendency to see Jesus as other than what he is is only increasing. What you ultimately end up doing is either 1) abandoning the faith altogether because you’ve lost Jesus or 2) you devalue Scripture to the point where ultimately, neither it nor Jesus holds any weight at all, and you end up with a pseudo-Christianity that can be adapted at will. Neither option is good. Neither option presents us with anything that can redeem the world. No matter how hip or cool you want to make the Gospel, if you take away Jesus… there is no Gospel. It might be uncool or politically incorrect to say what we actually believe about Jesus…. But to say anything else is to look at Jesus on the Cross and deny him. If this isn’t about Jesus… then it is about us. It’s not about us.

As Blessed Charles Grafton would say, “Press on the Kingdom.”

To God be the Glory, now and forever. Amen.

Homily for the Feast of St. James

A Homily for the Feast of St. James the Apostle

25 July 2013

Holy Apostles Anglican Church, Pewaukee, WI

Mr. Zachary Braddock, Seminarian

 

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

St. James the Apostle, whom we commemorate today, is often referred to as St. James the Greater, to distinguish him from St. James the Less, who is the step-brother of our Lord. He, along with Peter and his own brother, James, formed an inner circle, of sorts. These three were the ones whom Jesus took up on the mount at the Transfiguration, the ones who he took with him to raise a young girl from the dead, the ones he conferred with at gethsemane before the Jews took him.[1]

James was the first of the Apostles to suffer Martyrdom, being beheaded by Herod Agrippa, probably in 44 A.D. Christian legend holds that he traveled to Compostella, Spain before his Martyrdom, in order to preach the Gospel. There is a tradition which contradicts this legend, but it is clear, either way, from Scripture, that the Apostle was martyred for his faith. He followed in the footsteps of Stephen, the first martyr, and Jesus, his Lord.

As our society continues to change, and as the calls for martyrdom in the face of imminent destruction continue, it is important to remember that we are not necessarily called to die bodily as a witness for Christ. It is also important that if we are, and we truly may be called to this, that we allow ourselves to fade, and Christ to show forth through us.

And that, I think, is the true importance of martyrdom, and of being witnesses for Christ in this world. We have to live the truth, we have to live transformed lives, and that- living life in Christ- is what Jesus asks us.

When we come to judgement, and we all will, we will not be judged on wether or not we used the Anglican Missal or Prayer Book; whether or not we are Anglican or Episcopalian. We will be judged on wether or not we kept the faith.

That is what James the Apostle did- he kept the faith. In his life, and in his death, he should be an example to us all. In all things, we are to be Christians. St. Peter writes in his epistle this morning, that we are a royal priesthood and a holy nation. He writes that we are to offer up spiritual sacrifices.

This means putting aside our own will. This means choosing to follow Christ instead of our own desires. When tempted to sin, cling to the cross! When you’re tempted to ignore those in need, be the voice and hand and eyes of Christ! When you just don’t want to go to Sunday Mass, because it’s been a long week and you still have work to do… cling to the cross. Look up at Jesus….

White Martyrdom, as it is called, or suffering for the gospel even though one’s own life is not taken, may be the vocation of us all, particularly if our society continues to become averse to Christians. But it is our calling as Christians to suffer gladly for the Cross. Take comfort in Jesus. Take comfort in him who has already suffered for us and with us. As St. Peter says, “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.”[2]

To God be the Glory, now and forever. Amen.

 


[1] Anglican Breviary, pg. 1335

[2] 1 Peter 1:24-25

Homily for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity

A Homily for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity

14 July 2013

Holy Apostles Anglican Church, Pewaukee, WI

Mr. Zachary Braddock, Seminarian

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

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

When someone looks at you, what do they see? What do they experience? Do they see Christ, in and through you? Do they look at you, and see a member of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church? A member of that church, in the world, but not of it?

At the Incarnation, the Divine takes on the Human. At the Resurrection, humanity is raised from the dead. Because of this, everything changes. Those who have died with Christ and risen to new life have changed. Those who have been washed in the blood of the lamb and the waters of Baptism have been freed from slavery to sin and become servants of the Father. As St. Paul says, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.”[1] Through our baptism we have been freed from the debt of original sin and we may enter into relationship with the Father, from whom we derive our very being. Once baptised, we are invited to return to the Father, invited to take up eternal life, invited to share in the Father’s plan of redemption, through which he wills that the entire world should be transformed and assumed into the divine plan.

When we rise with Christ, we rise as members of his Body, the Church. As members of the Body of Christ, as members of the Church, we are citizens of the Kingdom over which Christ reigns. Created in the image and likeness of God, and redeemed by his Son, we are called to reveal the kingdom, to reveal the unity of the Church, to reveal the redemption offered through Jesus Christ. We are called to be the Salt of the Earth[2]. This parish, this diocese, this church is called to be a city set on a hill.[3] We have been given the light of Christ. We cannot hide it under a basket. It must shine out into every corner of the world.[4] It must shine in every moment of our life.

That light must shine here, Sunday after Sunday, year after year. That light must shine in Baptism, in Confession, in Eucharist. It must shine on Monday, and Tuesday, and every day following. Christ must shine through us, in every moment, when we are alone and when we are with others. If we are to unite ourselves with the Father, our own will must conform to His. I like to say that our hearts need to beat in tandem with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

I often hear people talking about how we are losing the culture wars, and about how we live in a post-Christian society. I won’t argue with that. It is not the first time, and it is not the last. Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, possibly said it best:

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to meet the rector of a Russian seminary. I asked him what the wider church could learn from the Russian Church’s experience of the soviets. He said, “Never underestimate the value of the babushkas.” His point was simple: Grandmothers had saved the Church in Russia by being faithful.

We build Christian civilization by making ourselves holy. Step by step, brick by brick, soul by soul. We gaze upon Christ and accept him under the form of bread and wine at the Eucharist. But we also have to look at him in His little ones and let others see him through us, through the way we speak, through the way we act. We receive the blessing of the priest at the end of Mass… we must be a blessing to the world. We must be the salt that seasons the world.

This is the life of grace, eternal life lived in and for Christ, life lived as Mary, the virgin mother of our Lord lived, saying to God, yes. Yes, thy will be done. In all things, be it unto me, according to thy word.

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

 


[1] Romans 6:23 (RSV)

[2] Matthew 5:13

[3] Matthew 5:14

Homily for the Third Sunday after Trinity

A Homily for the Third Sunday after Trinity

15 June 2013

Holy Apostles Anglican Church, Pewaukee, WI

Mr. Zachary Braddock, Seminarian

THEN drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. (Luke 15:1,2)

 

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

In both parables this morning, something is lost. And in both parables, the one who values the lost, either sheep or coin, goes looking for it. But the core of the gospel this morning is not the parables, but rather the reason why Jesus tells the parables. Tax collectors and the other “sinners” are gathering around Jesus, ready to hear what he has to say. The Scribes and the Pharisees, always antagonizing Jesus, say to each other, “This man receives sinners and eats with them!”

Jesus eats and associates with those who do not follow the Law and those who collect taxes for the hated Romans. The Pharisees viewed both of these groups as lost, and rightly so.  But the Pharisees are just as lost. The Scribes are just as lost as those who have sided with the Romans. Truthfully, all are lost, because as St. Paul says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Into this mix comes Jesus Christ. This is the one, who, on a larger level, is God incarnate, God come down to earth to dwell among us and with us, taking on our nature. On the individual level, and the level that the scribes and pharisees operated on, this was one who ate with Roman collaborators, who talked with the Samaritan woman at the well, who healed on the sabbath, who pronounced the forgiveness of sins, who preached in the Synagogue that Isaiah 61 had been fulfilled in the presence of those listening.

And in response to their accusation, Jesus tells two parables. He tells of the shepherd which goes after the sheep, and the woman who searches for the lost coin. The sheep is lost because it did not hear or did not obey the shepherd. The coin is probably lost because it was tossed or dropped. Christ, the one who said, “I am the Good Shepherd,” is the one who comes after the lost sheep. The woman searching for the coin represents us, searching after God, searching for that which we have lost through our inclination to sin… through our choosing to sin.

When a sheep is lost, though, like the pharisees, the Scribes, the Tax Collectors, the sinners…like you and I… it can be difficult to reorient. St. Peter warns, “Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith.”

But it is so easy to be distracted. It is so easy to set our eyes on something other than God. How often have we turned them not towards God but towards something that we want? Rather than saying our prayers, we watch that game or catch up on our favorite television show. Or, speaking from my own experience, sleep. Or, buying into the modern heresy of progress, we try to haul ourselves up by our own bootstraps and focus on what we can accomplish, what we can do, and in doing so, we lose sight of God. How often have we turned them against God, looking at someone we don’t like and considering them less than fully human, not seeing the image of God in them? I have walked through the streets of New York, Atlanta, even Racine, and seen the homeless and starving… True, some of them want to be there, and do not want help, but a society which is  able to encourage new three hundred dollar cell phones every year, and thirty thousand dollar weddings should should encourage us to see the image of God in each other. But we see shiny things and we gravitate towards them.

Jesus Christ did not die on the Cross so we could have nice things. Nice vestments, pretty buildings, the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the Anglican Missal, the 1940 Hymnal, coffee hour; these are not the gospel. These are not the truth, nor are they the reason that Jesus gave himself for us.

Christianity is not about feeling good about oneself. It is not about finding inner peace, nor about being nice to one another. Those are all good things, and I think Jesus likes them, but not at the expense of the real reason why Christ came among us.

The Good Shepherd came to find us, lost as we were in this world, and to raise us up that we might find him. But in order to find him, we actually have to look for him. In order to find Jesus, we have to not allow ourselves to be distracted.

You cannot be a Sunday Morning Christian. We cannot say the words of the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” and not long for the establishment of the Kingdom; We cannot say, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,” if we do not forgive our neighbor; We cannot say, “deliver us from Evil,” and ask God to “incline our hearts to keep this law” if we do not intend conversion of life.

When you receive Jesus this morning in the Sacrament, unite yourself to Him. Let yourself resolve to be salt and light… let us, the Church, resolve to be the Sacrament of the Kingdom. May the light of Christ so fill us and transform us that we may not reveal ourselves, but be icons of Christ. May this parish be a window from this world into the Kingdom.

Let us Pray.

O GRACIOUS Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldst be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

 

Homily for the First Sunday after Trinity

A Homily for the First Sunday after Trinity

2 June 2013

Holy Apostles Anglican Church, Pewaukee, WI

Mr. Zachary Braddock, Seminarian

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

Eastertide has ended. Christ has risen and ascended, trampling down death by death and rising up into Heaven. He has sent the Holy Ghost upon us, and we have celebrated the Feasts of the Most Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi. We come now to the long green season of Trinity-tide, which will last until Advent Sunday. Trinity Sunday marks a transition of sorts, where we shift from recounting the history of the Life of Christ and re-presenting the events of Holy Scripture to a time of focusing on Life after Pentecost. This is the Life of the Church, a life into which we have been baptized and which we must live out. In a way, you could argue that from Advent to Pentecost, we learn what to believe, and from Trinity to Advent, we learn how to live what we believe, and celebrate the various mysteries of our faith.

So. Having seen that God has loved us and has therefore taken on our flesh… has lived among us… has died in our place, like a common thief… and, still loving us, has resurrected his Son from the dead, sent the Holy Spirit, empowering us to live as Christians and to utilize the sacraments, principally among them, Baptism and the Eucharist. In Baptism we die with Christ and we rise with Him. Through Baptism we are broken off from the world and grafted onto the Body of Christ. What a gift of Grace… Likewise in the Eucharist, we are drawn ever closer and strengthened as we receive Christ under Bread and Wine. So you see a common theme of Love. The Love of God, who is himself the greatest example of Love: the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Three Persons in one Being.

We… The Baptized… The Church, being loved, must let that love flow through us. We, ourselves, as Saint John instructs in the Epistle this morning, must love. “Beloved,” he says, “Let us love one another: for love is of God: and every one that loveth is born of God, and and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” Indeed, what do we hear every Sunday?

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 neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Love of God…. Charity towards one’s neighbor. And my neighbor is not just the person who lives on either side of me, but every soul with whom I come into contact.  And so we see that Christianity is, at its core, about Love and Charity.

Should we therefore love our neighbor? Yes, of course. But loving our neighbor does mean throwing the church’s understanding of Sin out the narthex door. Loving our neighbor does not mean that we no longer acknowledge that the Father of Lies, Satan himself, wants to pull as many of us down with him into Hell as he can. Satan has already lost. He lost at the Incarnation and Resurrection. He knows that. Taking us with him into the pit is all he has left!

My brothers and sisters, DO NOT LET THE DEVIL CONVINCE YOU THAT HE ISNT REAL. He is very real, and so is Hell. Steel yourselves against the enemy. Fortify yourself. It is possible to separate yourself from God for eternity, as we see in the reading from St. Luke. No matter how much we try to relativize sin, no matter how much we tell ourselves that sin doesn’t matter… it does. When we sin, we put our souls in danger. Sin does not go away just because it is politically incorrect, it adds up, and it adds up, and it gets in the way of our relationship with God. It blinds us, and it makes it harder and harder for us to see God working and harder for us to follow Him, and yet it makes it easier and easier to fall to temptation, to succumb to sloth, greed, lust, envy and every other sin. Even more sinister, as Sin adds up, it becomes harder to recognize as Sin. Sometimes we even begin to like and to enjoy sin. Sin corrupts us.

In college, I constantly ran into people who argued that because God is love and because we should love one another, it was wrong to tell someone that they shouldn’t do something or that what they were doing was not acceptable. Turn on the news or read the newspaper, and you will see calls for “tolerance”, “acceptance”, and “love” for any number of things that are not compatible with Christian morals. But the very reason that they are not compatible with Christian morality is because they are intrinsically harmful to the person committing the action.  Sin is not “progress.” Normalizing sin will not lead to a utopia in which all is peaceful and everyone is perfect. Progress… The modern idea of the “super-man” towards which we are supposedly moving, an “enlightened” version of man who has no need for God, but only his own bootstraps, will get us nowhere. Only Christ can redeem us. We can not and will not be able to “go it alone.”

So why do we evangelize? We evangelize in order to bring souls into the loving embrace of the Father; because in loving our neighbor, sometimes we have to tell them that there is a better way. Often times we have to tell ourselves that there is a better way.

Never forget that in order to convert the world, we have to convert ourselves. Never forget that in order the get the speck of dust in our neighbor’s eye, we have to get the log out of ours first. Please, make use of the sacraments. Make your confession. Receive Christ in the Eucharist as often as possible; and immerse yourself in Prayer and in the Word of God. The Prayer Book has a system for reading the Bible. There are four lessons and a selection from the psalms which you can use every day and read most of the Bible each year. Do half of it, and read the Bible every two years. Either way, please use it. You can say the Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer on your own, or with each other. If you cannot say the full offices, there are short forms in the back of the Prayer Book. Interject prayer into the little moments of life. Interject it into every moment of life. Pray, as Saint Paul instructs the Thessalonians, Pray without ceasing. Again and again and again, turn to Christ, our King and our God.

Then take what you receive through the sacraments and take it out into the world. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your neighbor… as yourself. Show Christ through yourself, to all. Take Christ from this place, this outpost of the Kingdom, and cast the light of Christ into every corner. Plant the seeds of the Kingdom all over your neighborhoods and this neighborhood. Our work is not ended until every single person within reach of this parish knows the love of Jesus Christ.

I appeal to you, therefore, my brothers and sisters, as we proceed into this long, green, season of Trinity-tide, do not grow bored. Do not take for granted the time that you have to grow in Christ; do not take for granted what we may learn and how we may grow from simply going to Mass, saying Morning and Evening Prayer, praying on our own, and letting these form and shape our lives. Like Mary, the virgin-mother of Our Lord, let us with faith follow the path which has been set before us, trusting in God’s Will, not ours. With Peter and Paul, the Apostles, let step forward in faith, ready to be witnesses for Christ in all that we do. Alongside John the Evangelist, may we with Joy and Peace tell all those who do not know Jesus who he is and what he does.

As John Paul II once said,

“Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (cf. Rom 1:16). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:15-16).”

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

 

A Homily for Corpus Christi

A Homily for the Feast of Corpus Christi
30 May 2013
Holy Apostles Anglican Church, Pewaukee, WI

Mr. Zachary Braddock, Seminarian

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

The Eucharist is one of the most misunderstood of Christian practices. Aside from Mary, who is even more maligned than the Eucharist, the average person; will, when questioned, place the Holy Communion as the greatest difference between “Catholics” and “Protestants.” On the surface, they often seem right, because they see “Catholics” as “bread worshippers” who actually believe that the bread and wine become Jesus. On the other hand, they see “protestants” as those sensible Christians who see it as purely memorial. Somehow, we Anglicans get lumped in with either group, depending on the individual’s prejudices and Orthodoxy gets forgotten altogether.

But it truly is more complex than that. Paul tells the familiar story in his first Epistle to the Corinthians. On the night before he died, he took bread and he gave it to his disciples and said, “Take, Eat, this is my body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me.” Similarly, he gives them the cup of wine, claiming it as his blood.

Scripture and the Tradition of the Church show that the Eucharist is not merely an act of remembering Jesus. And yet, they do not affirm the Roman Catholic teaching of Transubstantiation. Do not confuse Transubstantion with the Doctrine of the Real Presence. Christ is truly present in the sacrament, truly present on the altar in this very church. But you cannot say that bread and wine cease to exist and that only the Body and Blood of Christ remain.

Just as Christ assumed human nature, so he assumes the physical nature of the eucharistic elements. Just as Jesus Christ was fully man and fully God, so the Host is fully bread and fully Jesus.

As God fed the people of Israel in the desert with Manna, so he now feeds us with the Bread of Heaven. And this is not merely bread, but himself. When we kneel at the altar and receive Jesus, hidden in bread and wine, we receive the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We participate, not in a new sacrifice, nor a repeating sacrifice, but in the “one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction.” We do not exist in a vacuum when we partake of the Eucharist, but are “made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him.” There is one and only one Eucharist, whether here on our altar, or on the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, or the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

So, my brothers and sisters, I invite you, when you come to Mass, come and adore Him. Come and behold the Lamb of God; behold him who taketh away the sins of the world. Happy are they, called to the supper of the lamb, who taste and see… that the Lord is good.

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