From the Pulpit


“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…


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


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


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


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…


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


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

“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.”


“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.”