Thursday, January 26, 2017

Third Epiphany

Teleology is the study of purpose. It asks, what is the goal?  The goal of human beings is ‘theosis.’ God made us for Himself—the “two-become-one” in a covenant love relationship.

Jesus said “This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 14:12) Jesus prayed “[Father I ask] that they may be one. As you Father are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me.” (John 17:21-22)

Division and disorder is not of God, it is a function of chaos. Our Heavenly Father lovingly unites creation in Himself. Seeing the disorder and strife in Corinth and God through Paul asks, “Is Christ divided?” Christ is one, yet in that church there was division.

In our own day and time the division continues. Christ is divided—between Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant, and further between different subgroups in each—Christ cannot be divided, so these very real divisions in His Church are a scandal. Paul exhorts (parakalleo) the church to be of the same mind and thoughts. Until we have the mind Jesus Christ, chaos and darkness.

Israel knew the same sad divisions. United under King David in 1000BC by 922 the Northern tribes had split from Judah, with tragic consequences. After two hundred years the Northern Kingdom, in league with Syria, was in a conflict with Judah. This was the setting for Isaiah 7-9. In 732 BC the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser had conquered Galilee and Transjordan, the tribal lands of Zebulun and Naphtali. Like anti-christs in every age, the Assyrian stood against God and His people. The divisions between Israel and Judah had weakened the nation. Assyria annihilated the Northern Kingdom; they are now called “the lost tribes of Israel.”

But eight hundred years later, Matthew heard Isaiah’s word anew in Jesus. God’s salvation is perfected in Jesus.

Satan and human anti-Christs bring chaos. Human conflict is an attack on the Kingdom of God. The demonic work of dark and loveless “uncreation” produces division and chaos. 

When Jesus appeared in Galilee, God’s promise in Isaiah is heard again. Jesus announces “God is near.” Jesus teaches truth and heals maladies. Jesus’ very presence is light in the darkness.

His light shines and He exhorts us; “Repent. Believe.”

His light shines and He calls us: “Come, follow me.”

To repent, to believe, to follow….this is the way of light and love. It is the way of ‘theosis’…. And it is our eternal purpose.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Homily on Baptism of the Lord 1/8/2017

EPIPHANY: Baptism of our Lord

Around 600AD, St. John of the Ladder explained that “repentance is the renewal of baptism,” because in baptism we die to sin and are raised to new life in Christ.

The Incarnation means that God has divinized our humanity so life in Christ is called “Theosis.” Paradoxically, we are already one with Him even as we are slowly being made one with Him. Sin hinders this process. Epiphany celebrates Jesus manifesting the love Light of God to the world. We remember that this same Divine love light is in us!

The Incarnation makes every moment of human life sacred. Jesus’ baptism makes baptism holy. Jesus shares in our struggle. Jesus needed the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s power in Him and us. When Jesus was baptized, the Father said that He was a beloved, pleasing son. We are also beloved sons and daughters; we too must please Him. It is the gift of salvation, the gift of sanctification—theosis—which saves and creates mortals into God’s children. Like us, Jesus had pain, struggle and temptation. Jesus was overworked and underappreciated, He was used by others and ignored, He was asked to give when exhausted, interrupted and imposed upon regularly. He felt alone in a world where no one really ever understood Him and almost everyone betrayed Him. He understands our feelings and He understands our worst moments. He is like us.  Unlike us, Jesus always loves, trusts and obeys the Father, He did not sin. We have the same vocation, but when we sin—because of doubt and fear, because of cold hearts and selfishness—we can repent and renew our baptism. Again and again each day, repentance is the path of theosis.

The baptism of Jesus sanctifies us because we are baptized into Him.   Isaiah and Acts clarify our life calling.

Isaiah 42 speaks of a “Servant of God.” The servant is corporately the entire nation of Israel, but He is also a man.  Jesus is the perfect Servant. Like Israel, the whole church and each individual member, share in the same mission. We are called to be gentle heralds, carrying The Light of Christ into the world. The images of blindness, prison and darkness symbolize The Enemy (satan, sin and death). The Triune God is holy light which already shines among us. In Isaiah, God declares, “the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare.” The Apocalypse use the same language to describe the Last Day when once and for all God saves and recreates the world.

Jesus is the Light of God shining among us, but remember He shares in our frustrations and disappointments. He rescues us, by being us! He even dies to redeem death, and rises to being eternal life. This is the Good News Peter shares. “No one,” he says, “not even Gentiles, is outside of God’s love. Anyone who truly desires God is included.”

That is our message. Jesus heals. Jesus forgives. Jesus saves. Jesus died and rose, and is with us today.  He speaks in the Word and loves us in the Eucharist. Even if His light seems muted, it still shines on even the darkest day. And it shines brightest when we repent, renew our baptism and faithfully are His light to the world.  

Christmas Sermon 2016

Christmas 2016

We know that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, but why did Jesus have to die? Jesus had to die because He was born.

St. Athanasius said that “God became Man so that Man could become God.” In other words, God’s remedy to bridge the great gulf between humanity and divinity was to become one of us.  The Incarnate God-Man experiences all the limitations of living in space and time by taking our nature and making ‘theosis’ possible. Theosis (or divinization) is the purpose of salvation—being one with God. The Bible uses different images for this: “filled with the Holy Spirit,” “in Christ,” “children of God,” or “the body of Christ” to illustrate theosis—or “God became Man so Man can become God.”

Jesus died to save us from sin, but He was born to redeem us from being "only" human being. Jesus open us to divine life--He lives in us and we live in Him. Let’s be clear, sin complicated everything. Because of sin people die. So when the Word became flesh to live among us, ‘The Source’ of life became subject to death. The moment that Jesus was conceived in the Virgin’s womb, death was part of His destiny. (We do well to ponder this, as we consider any sacrifices we make on His behalf.)

If there were no sin, maybe the birth of Jesus would have been different. Maybe humanity would have sung with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest!” If there were no sin, the redemptive work of our Savior Lord Jesus, would have been completed with the incarnation. Unfortunately, we did sin, so the birthday celebration is under the shadow of the looming cross.

Christmas means that God really is among us. Incarnation means that beginning in the womb every moment of this life is in God Incarnate. Human nature is redeemed and sanctified. Ordinary Life is sacred and holy. We do not need our souls to escape the body to go to heaven—heaven has come to us. We need not fear death, because we know God treasures us and He is stronger than death. Healing, forgiveness, salvation—these are not just otherworldly and spiritual. They are also part of our flesh and blood living today.

Jesus was born to begin the long process of making us godly. Jesus was born because the Father loves us, each of us—personally and intimately. The Holy Three are among us, here and now. We can be saved by the cross, because we are saved by the incarnation. Jesus was born because God’s plan was to unite us to Himself in perfect love for eternity. There was no other way. Jesus is the only way.

My message is simple. Jesus’ birth means that your ordinary life matters; Jesus has redeemed everything. So live each day as a sacred trust. This world matters to God. You are beloved of God and precious in His sight. You will live here forever sharing God’s own life and nature. Joy to the World indeed!

Starting Over

after many months of failure I am just starting over with the new blog.
I will be posting sermons and additional reflections on occasion.