35 Years of Holy Comfort

The Rt. Rev. William C. Wiygul (retired)

Today (Sunday, 14 October 2018) we are privileged and blessed to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the founding of our parish.  The Altar is red; we are celebrating a Mass to obtain the grace of the Holy Spirit.  I should say to continue to obtain the grace of the Holy Spirit, for He has truly blessed us for the past 35 years, and we pray that He will continue to bless and guide us in the future.  Of course, our parish is named for the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, the Advocate or the Paraclete.

In the Gospel lesson this morning, we find the promise that Jesus made to His disciples:

“and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.  These things have I spoken unto you, being present with you.  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my Name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

Jesus told His disciples that it was necessary for Him to leave them: that is, to ascend into heaven so that the Father would send the Comforter to them.  Our Lord told the disciples in St. John’s gospel, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”  We all know that the working and power of the Holy Ghost was made manifest on that first Pentecost, when Our Lord’s promise was fulfilled, and the Holy Ghost was sent upon the disciples and the young Christian Church.  I wore the Bishop’s miter for the service today.  It is symbolic of the tongues of fire descending on the apostles on that first Pentecost.  The Church, the true Church, has been filled with the Holy Ghost ever since.

I want to talk this morning about the need for prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit for our parish.  We prayed in the Collect this morning: “O God, for as much as without thee we are not able to please thee; Mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts.”  We acknowledge that we are completely dependent on God and ask that His Holy Spirit may direct and rule our hearts.  We must accept the fact that we cannot do anything that is pleasing to God without God’s guidance through the Holy Spirit.  We are completely dependent on His Grace to guide us.  We must be willing to ask for His guidance, to be patient to wait for His guidance and then to have the discipline to do what He wants us to do.  And we all know that we are weak and will not always follow His guidance.

We are assured by Holy Scripture that the Holy Spirit will guide us.  In the gospel of St. Mark, 13:11, we read, “But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought before hand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it be not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.”

And in St. John’s Gospel 14:22, “But when the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

St. Paul tells us in his Epistle to the Romans that the Spirit not only helps our infirmities but also makes intercession for us: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.”

And so, we are comforted knowing that the Holy Spirit is making intercession for us.  But there is more comfort and assurance for us.  Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is also making intercession for us.  As we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “But this man (that is Jesus Christ) because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.  Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (8:24,25)

If it had not been for the guidance and intercession of the Holy Spirit, I am sure that we would not be here today.  When the church abandoned us, the Holy Spirit came to our rescue and brought us to what was then the Diocese of Christ the King under the leadership of Bishop Morse and the founding of this parish.

The journey to this point has not been easy.  Many have given and sacrificed so much of time and talents to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through them.  And along the journey, the old adversary, Satan, has thrown up numerous road-blocks to hinder the work we have been chosen to do.  And my dear friends, since we have survived for 35 years, Satan is not going to stop now.  But much more important, the Holy Spirit will not stop either.  This is similar to what St. Paul wrote to the Romans.  St. Paul says that no matter how much sin abounds, God’s grace is always greater.  The Holy Spirit is always greater that the temptations of Satan.

We can hold our heads high as we continue the work God has given us to do.  We have this beautiful facility dedicated and consecrated to the Glory of God to use in our continuing journey.

We are singing wonderful hymns today about the Church and the Holy Ghost and the Holy Spirit, and I want to close with the words of two hymns that are very appropriate for this occasion.  The first hymn is number 256 and is a prayer for the Holy Spirit:

“O Spirit of the living God, In all thy plenitude of grace,

Where’er the foot of man hath trod, Descend on our apostate race.

Give tongues of fire and hearts of love, To preach the reconciling word;

Give power and unction from above, Whene’er the joyful sound is heard.

Be darkness at thy coming, light; Confusion, order in thy path;

Souls without strength inspire with might, Bid mercy triumph over        wrath.

Convert the nations! far and nigh, The triumphs of the cross record;

The Name of Jesus glorify, till every people call him Lord.”

And the second is hymn number 380, and is another prayer for the Holy Spirit.

“Put forth, O God, thy Spirit’s might

And bid thy Church increase,

In breadth and length, in depth and height,

Her unity and peace.

Let works of darkness disappear

Before thy conquering light;

Let hatred and tormenting fear

Pass with the passing light.

Let what the apostles learned of thee

Be ours from age to age;

Their steadfast faith our unity,

Their peace our heritage.

O judge divine of human strife!

O vanquisher of pain!

To know thee is eternal life,

To serve thee is to reign.”

Let us continue to pray to God for His guidance by the Holy Spirit and for the continued intercession of the Holy Spirit and for the intercession of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior for continued blessings and guidance for the Parish of the Holy Comforter.

Note:  The editor is most grateful to Bishop Wiygul for permission to post this special sermon, and to the Holy Spirit who inspired him to write and deliver it.  Bishop Wiygul is a founding member of Holy Comforter who has served as layreader, then rector and finally diocesan bishop.