From the pulpit

THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY

August 2nd AD 2020

In the Epistle for this morning, St. Paul sets forth two ways to live. One is life according to the flesh. The other is life according to the Spirit. He shows where they lead…The powers that drive them…And which one you and I must embrace if we would see good days and inherit the promises given to us by our Heavenly Father.

He begins by saying that we are debtors. In America, these days, most of us know what it means to have debt. It means we owe something…most of the time it means we owe money, but St. Paul, here flatly states we are debtors. And then he quickly qualifies it…NOT TO THE FLESH, NOT TO LIVE AFTER THE FLESH. This word “flesh” probably sounds strange to our ears. We do not usually speak like this. In the writings of St. Paul “Flesh” is the source/seat of our corruption. It extends to the corruption of our mind, the defilement of our heart…and applies also to sinful actions of the body…strong fleshly urges, anger, lust, gluttony.

We carry these propensities within us. The flesh is ever ready to rear its head and defile a man body and soul. So St. Paul says, we do not owe a thing to the flesh. If you live after the flesh, you must die. For it is because of the works of the flesh that the wrath of God shall come upon the earth. Christians, those baptized in Name of the Trinity, we are called to mortify, slay, put to death the deeds of the body…that is the works of the flesh. We do this through the leading of the Spirit. “but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” This is not fanaticism or enthusiasm. The Spirit of God leads the sons of God to sanctification and true holiness. And this brings up for us, many wonderful questions…How does the Holy Spirit work in our lives? Can we know it is him?

St. Paul goes on to tell us some things about the Spirit…and helps us to discern his work among us. He says that Christians, have not received a spirit of bondage again to fear, but The Spirit of Adoption…so fear, hopelessness, a sense of slavery, boredom and drudgery does not characterize the Spirit of God nor Christian experience. Fear, hopelessness, slavery characterize the man who is living according to the flesh. The pleasures of sin may satisfy for a brief moment but they will torment for eternity. That’s why selfishness and pride inevitably leads to despair. The Spirit of Adoption on the other hand leads to Prayer, Communion with God, Worship, Joy, Patience in Suffering and finally Glory. Our lives are hid with Christ in God. We walk a similar path that he walked while among us. The true Son teaches us to call God “our Father” and that he truly his through the Spirit of Adoption. Each and every time we call out to our Father…The Spirit is bearing witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God…and if children then heirs: heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ…if we suffer with him…you see this opposition by the world, the flesh and the devil is very real. We do suffer. But the Spirit of God is with us all along. Convicting us, leading us, sanctifying us and assuring our hearts before God.

And we must never forget, that Christianity is not some private religion that is meant to be kept to oneself. We love, serve, suffer and rejoice together. I pray for you and you pray for me. We all know this, but sometimes it is nice to hear from others exactly what is going on…and how they are praying….so I would like to share with you exactly the types of things that I pray for each one of you…

I pray that God would give you

  • the grace of profound humility.
  • Fill you with perfect charity toward your neighbours
  • Detachment from things of this world, love of poverty and love of the poor
  • The gift of holy wisdom and purity of heart and body
  • Conversion and amendment of life and growth in grace
  • Perfect Sorrow for Sin and Perfect obedience to the Father’s will
  • Mortify your outward senses
  • Great contempt for the world
  • Patience in carrying the cross everyday
  • Horror of Sin, Love of the Cross, the grace of a good death.
  • Lively faith
  • Firm Hope and great longing for heaven
  • Holy wisdom to know, love and practice the truth
  • A true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary

    And…

  • The grace of perseverance, increase in virtue and the eternal crown prepared for you.

These and like things, I know are the will of the Father and so we pray for them with great boldness, knowing that whatsoever we ask according to His will, we shall receive.

And we rest, knowing that “those who are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” Amen.

From the pulpit

THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY

July 26th AD 2020

“And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness.”

From time immemorial, the perennial question of all who seek the truth could be fashioned upon this question of the Disciples of Jesus… “How can a man be satisfied in the wilderness of this world?” Let us look more closely at the Divinely Inspired words of the gospel this morning and discern the answer.

“In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: and if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers [for many] came from far.

Jesus is on Gentile soil. Earlier in the gospel he has fed 5000 Jews. Here he feeds 4000 Gentiles.

And these Gentiles have been following him into the wilderness, listening to his teaching for 3 days and have had nothing to eat. Recall the fasting of Jesus in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry. He was alone in the wilderness and was hungry. The devil tempted him to turn the stone into a loaf of bread. Jesus rebukes Satan with the words “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out to the mouth of God.” These Gentiles certainly seem to be men of good will. They are not living by bread alone, but by every word that proceedth out of the mouth of God Incarnate. They have fasted for three days, and would have willingly fasted all the way home. But the Son of God is too good to let them. He is moved by their faith shown forth by their actions. He says, “I have compassion on the multitude, BECAUSE, they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat.”

This is what prompts the disciple’s question: “From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness.”  This is the second time that the disciples have been in the wilderness. It seems as though they would have remembered. But they have forgotten. We forget too. So he asks the disciples, “How many loaves have ye? And they said, seven. And he commanded them to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.”

Do any of those words sound familiar? He took the bread, gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before the people.

Remember the words of Jesus at the Last Supper? When he instituted the Eucharist? Remember the words that we hear week after week?

FOR IN THE NIGHT IN WHICH HE WAS BETRAYED, HE TOOK BREAD; AND WHEN HE HAD GIVEN THANKS, HE BRAKE IT, AND GAVE IT TO HIS DISCIPLES, SAYING, TAKE, EAT, THIS IS MY BODY, WHICH IS GIVEN FOR YOU; DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME.”

 The Feeding of the Israelites in the wilderness, The Feeding of the 5000 Jews, The Feeding of the 4000 Gentiles are pointing us too the Feeding of the Church in the wilderness of the world.

The gospel tells us that they eat and were filled…but they would hunger again. Only the true bread from heaven, Jesus Christ himself, gives eternal life. Those who come to him with hearty repentance and true faith…they shall eat and be eternally satisfied…for he who has compassion on the multitudes says: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever:  and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

To restrain people from the bread of life is the gravest of offenses. And to cut people of from it is spiritual suicide. “Lord have mercy upon us, for we know not what we do.”

“LORD of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things; Graft in our hearts a love of thy Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of thy great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

From the Pulpit

THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY

July 12th A.D. 2020

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and reverence.” 1 Peter 3:15

In the epistle for this morning, Peter is writing to churches scattered throughout the ancient world. And he gives to all the church throughout the ages a pattern of teaching, a way of life. This way of life is how ALL Christians should live, despite what type of government they find themselves under. It shows that our duty to God and to our fellow men never changes no matter how “good” or how “bad” the external situation is. Let us consider closely what St. Peter has to say through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, please listen carefully…listen closely.

“Finally be ye all of one mind [literally…think the same thing…the gospel of Christ is what unifies the Church…this should form all our thinking…this is the one thing that cannot be compromised…not diversity…not an emphasis upon difference…but unity in the gospel], having compassion one of another [to suffer with one another…Christians must be together], love as brethren, be pitiful […have bowels of compassion, to feel in one’s the guts, it is a powerful physiological reaction that moves one to pity and action…Jesus was moved in this way when he saw the multitudes as sheep without a shepherd ], courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; (Remember the words of Jesus “but I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”) Why ought we to behave this way…St Peter tells us…knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

Furthermore, St. Peter quotes Psalm 34 as the reason for his admonition to live this way…why should we live this way…For or because “he that will love life and see good day, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips that they speak no guile…guile means crafty and deceitful ways of speaking. Christians must be men, women and children who are frank, upright, and straightforward in their speech. There “yes” must be “yes” and their “no” must be “no”.

Let him eschew (reject, shun) evil and do good; let him seek peace and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil…and then St. Peter asks a question.

“and who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? Who is going to punish you for being compassionate? Who is going condemn you for being peaceful? Reason should tell us that no one should condemn you for these things…however we are in a spiritual war…and we know that Jesus was the absolute perfection of all these things…and that he suffered unjustly to an infinite degree. St. Peter knows this so he goes on to address it. He says but and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy [blessed] are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; He echoes, once again, the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the mount. Our Lord says, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.”

The epistle ends this morning with another command…when this happens, when you are persecuted for righteousness sake, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” Hallow, set apart as Holy, the Lord God in your heart.

This epistle shows to us a few things about being first being good citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven and also how to live as good citizens of the United States of America.

The gospel calls us to act like Jesus, to follow in his steps, at all times and in all places. To suffer with Him…so that we may reign with him.

The testimony of our Christian past reveals to us that The Eucharist is essential…not an online service…not praying at home…but in person gatherings to worship Christ, not necessarily in the Church…but nevertheless in person…it was their treasure…their pearl of great price…and they sought it by any means possible…in the dead of night, in caves, in catacombs, in the desert, in foxholes in times of war…in the freezing gulags of Soviet Russia…at the risk of peril, danger, torture and execution…Through plague, pestilence, and famine…in Islamic countries under Sharia Law, in Atheistic countries under brutal dictators, our Forefathers in the faith knew and our suffering brothers in the faith know that they need the Eucharist. To hold this zeal and faithfulness in contempt or to regard it as foolhardy and unsafe…is to condemn the heritage of the righteous. No, perhaps it is time for us 21st American Christians to close our mouths, calm down, and listen to our past…to open our eyes and ears to the testimony of present day believers who know the fellowship of suffering…in ways you and I cannot imagine…and who, nevertheless, seek the Eucharist anyway.  

Our work has just begun. The sermon is not ended. We must think and pray and ponder these things continually if, we too, would be faithful to Jesus Christ and his gospel during our short span of 80 years.

Only one life

Twill soon be past

Only what’s done for Christ

Will last.

Let us pray:

Grant, O LORD, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From the Pulpit

THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY

July 5th AD 2020

“I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.”Romans viii. 18.

“O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

The Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity (1928 Book of Common Prayer)

The collect from this morning teaches us somethings concerning God, ourselves and our purpose in this world. In echoing the words of Holy Scripture, this short prayer reveals never-changing principles that are at the heart of our Christian faith.

  • God alone is the protector of all who trust in Him
  • Without God, nothing is strong, nothing is holy. Apart from him, everything becomes common and profane.
  • God’s mercy, his governance, his guidance shall keep us unto eternal life.
  • Temptation comes to us through temporal things…things that belong to time.

In short, eternal life is our goal, our final aim. The unspeakable feast…the joy of heaven…Seeing him face to face.

Right now, we live in a place where two Kingdoms are constantly vying for our allegiance. We know Christ and his Kingdom. We know Satan and the kingdom of this world. By God’s grace, we have a knowledge of how things ought to be…How they ought to be in our nation, in our towns, in our families and in our Churches. And we also have a knowledge of how things seem to be going…

We live and are at times tortured by the way things are and the way things ought to be. It is a huge source of frustration and bitterness for so many people. As we evaluate ourselves, our families, our schools, towns and nation before the face of God…the words of Isaiah the prophet become our own… “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am an man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. For mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

We groan within ourselves for better things. We long for things to be made right. It is right here, in this situation, that the words of the Apostle Paul come to us this morning…

“I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us…for we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain until now…”

Let us pause here and notice St. Paul’s words…he uses the image of child-birth to describe our entrance into the “glorious liberty of the children of God”…to describe our entrance into heaven…when all is finally made known…all is finally made right…and the difference between “what ought to be” and “what is” is finally banished forever.

The creation groans for us to be born finally into the new heavens and the new earth…for that means that the rest of creation will be set free from its bondage to futility and corruption.

We groan within ourselves…longing to be freed from our corrupt fleshly principles…our indwelling sin…and the constant tension and battle that we feel within our hearts…we groan for the day when we will enter into that true liberty for which we were created and redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. We have fleeting glimpse of that peace and liberty here. We find it most often at Church…in the Baptism of a Baby…in the Holy Communion…at an Easter or Christmas Service…in the hymns we sing together …through the encouraging words of a faithful Christian…God provides for us fleeting glimpses of hope…that help us onward in the fight…as we continue to groan for the eternal inheritance promised to us by the Father.

We also notice that the Holy Ghost, God himself, groans within us…praying for us…interceding for us…forming and shaping us in the womb of this world…so that we may safely be delivered into the Kingdom of Heaven.

This year, Trinity Season began with the Baptism of Titus Milton Clark. We heard Jesus’ words… “You must be born again.” St. Paul is giving us a little more insight into just what that means. Travail and suffering, in this fallen world, always accompanies our Natural Birth…Travailing and suffering always accompanies our New Birth into the Kingdom of Heaven too…it is just a different kind of pain.

Natural birth is primarily brought forth through natural and physical suffering.

The suffering that accompanies spiritual birth is primarily spiritual…and spiritual suffering is often times the most harrowing of the two.

Nevertheless, St. Paul, who was no stranger to either physical or spiritual suffering…gives us these unshakable words of hope…

I reckon [I count, I am certain] that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy [not even worthy!] to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us…

Let us hear his words and believe…Let us believe his words and hope…Let us hope and let us love…for love never faileth. God’s love never fails. Amen.

From the Pulpit

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY

June 28th A.D. 2020

“All of you be subject to one another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

Over the past two Sundays in Trinity Season we have been considering the first foundation of our spiritual life, which is the Love of God. The love that he requires of us. The love that we have for one another as brethren in the Church.  Way back in The Season of Advent (November of last year…that seems like an eternity ago), where we anticipate the 2nd coming of Christ through…

The Season of Christmas – when the Son comes to us from heaven through the Virgin Mary…

to

The Season of Epiphany – when Christ manifests himself to the Gentile Kings…

to

The Pre-Lenten Season – when we prepare for the Lenten disciplines…

to

Lent– when we follow Christ into the desert and fast and pray for repentance and grace…

to

Holy Week – the last week of our Lord’s life before he is crucified. This includes:

Maundy Thursday – the Institution of the Lord’s Supper

Good Friday – the trial, crucifixion, and death of our Lord

Easter Sunday – the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

to

Ascension – the ascension of our Lord into heaven, where he is crowned King of Kings as he sits at the Father’s right hand…

to

Whitsunday (or Pentecost) – where the Holy Ghost enters into our hearts and leads us to the Father and the Son…

(November, December, January, February, March, April and through May) we had the opportunity to see, just how much God loves us. Lesson after Lesson after Lesson. We saw to what great lengths he will go to bring us back to Himself and give us a supernatural life in this world and in the world to come. Let it be said with all clarity,

We love because he first loved us!”

And his great love has the power to change us into the type of persons that truly LOVE God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves. Obeying the first and greatest commandment (and the second that is like unto it) is the ONLY proper response to the daily, never-ceasing, overflowing love of God that he pours upon us Day after Day after Day. But this obedience must be trained in the school of humility and prayer. It will not be acquired overnight.

Therefore, we can begin to see the wisdom of the Prayer Book and Classical Christian devotion. How, from the beginning, we are taught to pray at least in the morning and evening of every day. The logic behind this is that we MUST learn that we need God every day. He provides, protects and preserves us with great faithfulness every day and every night of our lives. Another reason, is that we, as Christians, are to make sure that God, Christ, the Holy Ghost and the Church are deliberately held before our minds some time every day. That is why our daily prayers, devotional readings and attendance at Church are NECESSARY PARTS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. We have to be reminded of what we believe because if we are not then our Faith will not remain alive in our hearts. It must be fed. Daily. Most People are usually not reasoned out of the Christian faith…most people do not just stop going to church…they simply drift away and say that it is all so impractical…There are no easy fixes. Jesus requires all that we have and all that we are. And to think it ought to be anything less is a subtle form of pride.

Yes, the vice of pride is so hard to overcome…but CS Lewis, the great Anglican layman and professor, helps us to understand how to begin, he writes:

“The first step to humility is to realize that one is proud. I want to add now that the next step is to make some serious attempt to practice the Christian virtues. A week is not enough. Things often go swimmingly for the first week. Try six weeks. By that time, having, fallen back completely or even fallen lower than the point one began from, one will have discovered some truths about oneself. No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.”

The only reason why we fail to pray is because we are prideful. When we try to do good, behold evil is right there with us. We think we can go it alone…alone without God’s help and love…which is the essence of pride. But what do we do once we realize we have fallen, that we are weak, that we cannot do it alone. We must ask God’s help. Never get discouraged and respond to the never-failing love of God.

We must ask for God’s help…for this is what St. Peter calls “humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God…casting all our cares upon him…because he cares for us.” Do you have cares? Do you have worries? They are to be cast upon God through prayer. Someone else may choose to ruminate, cogitate and deliberate about cares and worries…Christians are to pray…to ask the assistance of the Holy Spirit…and to seek the face of God.

But very often what God first helps us towards is not an admirable and virtuous prayer life, instead he helps us develop the habit of always trying again. Always returning to him. Always asking for His help. No matter what.

Let me close with a brief reflection on the Gospel lesson from this morning. In all of our seeking and praying to God, let us never forget that our Lord is constantly seeking us, praying for us, and interceding for us. He does this unceasingly because he loves you. He loves me. He will not rest until we are found and set upon the road to the Father’s house. As the shepherd searches for the lost sheep, as woman searches for the lost piece of silver, so he searches for us. And as the shepherd rejoices over finding the sheep over…even so there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. So if we have fallen or failed in our prayers to God, let us sincerely REPENT and cause a great eruption of joy in the halls of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us REPENT, rise from our slothful sleep, and, by God’s grace, try again and again…for this process will cure all of the prideful illusions that we may have about ourselves and truly teach us to depend on God alone for all things.

The 2nd Sunday after Trinity

JUNE 21st AD 2020

“MARVEL not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.”

Brethren, we live in a time that tries the hearts of men. It makes us thinks thoughts that we would not otherwise think…a cause for reflection…an occasion for contemplation…a time for soul-searching. And no matter how bleak it may look from a worldly standpoint…Christians know and believe that it is a time of grace.

“God arises in judgment so that he may help all the meek upon the earth.”

AND

“The LORD does well unto those who are good and true of heart.”

AND yet again,

“…thou [O LORD] shalt save the people that are in adversity, and shalt bring down the high looks of the proud.”

(This means that in order for God to save his people…he has to humble the proud hearts). Peace shall come in no other way…and he has an infinite number of ways to reveal the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Right now, as Christians, we are between two worlds. Our bodies dwell in “enemy occupied territory.” Our heart, our thoughts, our souls ascend and dwell in the Kingdom of Heaven. We get our marching orders…so to speak…from Jesus Christ. And we carry them out in this world…not really considering, too much, the opinions of godless, confused or deceived people. For to regard in higher esteem the fickle requirements of man while being distracted from the one thing that is necessary…will help no one.

“MARVEL not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.”

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. The word for brethren is “adelphos”. It means “from the womb.” In the Greek world, it meant those who had the same mother, or grandmother or great grandmother. Those of the same family…brothers and sisters…aunts, uncles, cousins. In the ancient world, the term is used in this purely natural sense. But this is not what the Apostle John means. When he speaks of “the brethren”, he means Christians. Those who have been born again into the Kingdom of Heaven. Baptism. Those who, through grace, receive the Son of God. Those who confess that he came in the flesh and live in the newness of life that the Holy Spirit gives. Are you wondering if you have passed from death to life? Do you love God? Do you love the brethren? Do you love the Church. Do you love to worship God with his people? Do you desire to dwell at peace with all men? Do you realize that this will only come when the King returns to set up his Kingdom? Do you know that our life here, in this enemy occupied territory, will be characterized by the cross, by suffering, and by trial? There are many things here that will scandalize and astonish, the hearts of men that are made faithful and pure through grace.

Let us picture it now…A group of first century believers…joined together in the gospel. Filled with new found faith, hope and, charity in the One True God. Devoting themselves, for God’s sake, to love and kindness, tenderness and sincere affection for all men…and what do they receive from those that are not Christian…for the most part, they receive hatred, spite, persecution, calumny, misunderstanding, false accusations, etc. These believers are astonished. They marvel. They begin to waver and doubt. The root of bitterness may begin to defile. Like all sincere people, they wonder if they are doing something wrong. Then, this little flock, receives a letter from the Apostle John. They open it up and read these words…  “MARVEL not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”

No, you are not doing anything wrong. Do not be concerned. After enduring, the Lord will strengthen your heart and you will see that this is a good sign. Nevertheless, continue to love, especially one another, your fellow brothers, who are going through these trials with you. “[for] We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.” Hang on. Do not be afraid. Just be faithful to him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Our aim is to be faithful, in this world, to hold fast the faith of our Fathers. Our goal is to be a society under the cross of Christ…With the hope of his coming…His love alone in our hearts…showing forth, in thousands of simple ways, the morality, nobility, and heroism of those who have been crucified with Christ. AMEN.

Called to pastoral ministry

A homily given by the Rev. Canon Ben E. Jones Jr., upon the occasion of  the ordination of the Rev. Shannon Clark to the priesthood, 9 February 2019

The ordination of Fr. Shannon Clark

          As a priest, what will drive and guide your life and your ministry?  What is the source from which you will receive your inspiration, your energy?  From where will you receive your ability to focus on your ministry, and not to get caught up in distractions, distractions of the world?  The Source is the author of Pastoral care, Jesus Christ, the ‘Good Shepherd.’  

Gospel of St. John, 9:9: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

This gospel lesson is the greatest example of pastoral care that is given in scripture.  For everything that we do as priests is encompassed in pastoral care, where we nurture and bring the sheep of Jesus Christ, those lost souls, to His fold, while nurturing and caring for the sheep that are in the fold.  And at the same time, we as priests grow closer and closer to Jesus Christ, who nurtures our hearts and our souls as we carry out the duties and the responsibilities of the office and charge to which He calls us. For it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells your heart and that governs your soul, where Jesus Christ, the ‘Good Shepherd,’ will prepare you, my brother, and will be your source and your foundation, so that you and your ministry will ever be His channel to His people.

          Jesus as the ‘Good Shepherd’ is elaborating on His relationship with His close followers, portraying Himself as the Messianic shepherd and His followers as His ‘sheep.’  Jesus is both the gate to eternal life and the shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.  “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  Jesus Christ, the ‘Good Shepherd’ is our ultimate example for ‘pastoral ministry.’

          The primary objective in shepherding God’s flock is to feed them and to exercise oversight of the flock.  St. Peter defined the essence of pastoral ministry into two simple charges:  “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly.” In other words, do the work of shepherding God’s flock in all humility.  Humble shepherds are what God requires to lead His flock.

The first and foremost characteristic of humility is to be content to be a servant. “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” You are called and, God willing will be ordained to be, a minister and not a master, a steward, and not a lord. You are and will be for the rest of your life a servant of Christ Jesus, to be entrusted to the care of His household. 

The second characteristic of humility is to gladly suffer rejection by the world.  You will be charged to uphold scripture and to teach nothing that is contrary to the Word of God.  You will be charged with all faithful diligence, to banish and to drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s word.  My brother, carry out these and all of your charges and vows in all humility even when you suffer rejection and opposition in upholding God’s truth, for in your suffering, God will uphold you in His truth and in His love.

          My Brother, as a Priest in God’s Church, you will be that shepherd, that pastoral minister, to guard and to defend God’s flock from going astray, leading His flock to the green pastures of God’s word.  The nourishment of God’s flock and spiritual leadership is your essential duty.  Jesus drove home the importance of feeding the sheep to St. Peter.  “Jesus saith unto Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?  He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love Thee.  He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.”[ This is a three-fold question and answer discourse where Jesus gave the same answer three times.  ‘Feed My sheep.’  Twice in His command to St. Peter, Jesus used the Greek term, bosko, bosko, which means ‘I feed.’ The shepherds charge is to feed and to nourish the sheep with the meat of God’s truth, His word. 

Therefore you will exercise oversight of God’s flock.  God has entrusted you with the authority and with the responsibility of leading His flock.  You are as well to lead by the example of your life.  If you are truly called to the office for which you, God willing will be ordained, you will lead God’s flock by the example of your walk with Christ.  Therefore, my brother, be encouraging by God’s Word, because you are encouraged by God’s Word. 

For in just a few minutes, you will lay down your life at the ‘Throne of God’ to be changed for-ever to serve God’s flock.  My prayer for you my Brother is that God’s fold will come to know you, not as the sheep turned shepherd, but the shepherd in God’s truth, the shepherd that the flock draws near for nurturing and guidance.

Please stand for your charge.

          In the words of St. Paul to a young St. Timothy:

“I CHARGE thee therefore before God, And the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall Judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His Kingdom.My brother, preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables.  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” 

My brother, God bless you richly in your ministry as a priest and take heed to St. James’ teaching: “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”