Don’t be surprised


Sermon for May 21, 2023


Anyone who promises you a life without suffering is a damned liar.

Seriously, anyone who says that you can have a life of unmitigated happiness, without pain, without suffering, without struggle, that person is a liar and I say damned liar very intentionally because that message doesn’t come from God. It comes from someplace or someone else. And it is a message we hear all the time. 

Politicians, clergy, journalists, activists, ad executives…there are good people in all of those professions, with good intentions, but they are all prone to falling into the devil’s trap, and the trap is this: confusing making the world a better place with making the world a perfect place. They confuse alleviating suffering with eliminating suffering. Alleviating suffering and eliminating suffering may sound like similar goals, but the truth is they couldn’t be more different. Because one of them is a commandment of God and the other is a temptation of the devil.

In our epistle this morning, Peter says to the church “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings.” Do not be surprised that you are suffering Peter says. Do not be surprised. Jesus told us that we would suffer. If we didn’t have any suffering or any struggle in this life, then Christ would be a liar and our faith would likely be in vain. Don’t be surprised. Especially if you are following a crucified man, don’t be surprised to find some crosses in your life. That’s the bad news, but the good news is that if we are sharers in Christ’s sufferings then we are also gonna be sharers in his glory. Christ does not promise us a life without pain or struggle, but what he does promise us is the Holy Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit means that we never have to struggle alone. We are never abandoned by God when we have his spirit. That spirit is his presence with us in the midst of suffering. It is his spirit which gives us strength and patience. It is the spirit that heals us. And it is his spirit that gives us wisdom and courage to respond to suffering when we encounter it. That is why Peter can say that if you are feeling rejected and reviled right now, especially if you are being rejected for being a follower of Jesus, you are still blessed, because you have the Spirit of God resting on you.

But, Peter has more to say, and as usual the lectionary tries to cut all the good bits out. Immediately after Peter says you have the spirit of God resting on you, he says: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker.” Some suffering we bring on ourselves and some suffering just happens. Now, I am not a believer in Karma, which is the idea that people get what they deserve. I am a believer in grace, which is the idea that people don’t get what they deserve and that that is a very good thing. But still I do believe in a world of cause and effect, and sometimes we do cause our own suffering. There is a difference between suffering for trying to follow the commandments and suffering because you’re not trying to follow them or can’t be bothered.  Like Peter, I think that it would be a very good thing if you weren’t the chief cause of your own suffering. Now you may be thinking that you’re not a murderer, a thief, or even a criminal, but I will warn you that mischief maker is a pretty broad category that not many of us are going to escape. Because we are all sinful humans, we are all gonna have some of both types of suffering in our lives, we can all be mischief makers from time to time, and I trust the Lord to forgive and judge righteously, but we need to be careful not to blame God when we are suffering for our own bad behaviour, and dare I say, stupidity. And we should try to avoid that as much as we can. But there is plenty of suffering we are never going to be able to avoid. 

Peter says, “let those who suffer in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful creator, while continuing to do good.” Trust God and do good. That’s the answer. Whether you are suffering or not, trust God and do good. Trust God, not yourselves. Don’t be too confident that your suffering is from your good behavior and someone else’s suffering is from their bad behavior. Don’t be proud or arrogant. Trust God, do good, but be humble about it. Peter says “all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

I think the idea that we, through our own good choices and our own good deeds, are someday going to completely eliminate suffering, appeals to our pride. We want to save the world and somehow we keep getting this idea that God has somehow promised us a life without suffering. We think it is an achievable goal. We think it is a right. But Jesus doesn’t promise us that. He promises us the Holy Spirit, he promises us grace, he promises us his love and protection in the midst of our suffering. But we will suffer. Here is the problem with mistaking alleviating suffering with eliminating suffering: one of them is something that all of us can do, and one of them is something that none of us can do. One of them is achievable, the other isn’t. 

You can alleviate suffering by handing someone a glass of water. A kind word, a thoughtful gesture, showing love, compassion and mercy, these things alleviate suffering and we all can do them. They alleviate suffering, but they don’t eliminate it. If your goal is eliminating suffering, small acts of compassion and love won’t really help. So why bother with them? That’s the problem with trying to eliminate suffering: the goal is too big. And we end up focusing so much on achieving the impossible that we usually end up neglecting the possible. It is the same with every type of suffering we try to eliminate: poverty, racism, sexism. We all have the power to make someone’s life better through small acts of compassion, mercy and kindness. We can all do some good, and even if there isn’t much we can do, we can be present with people who are suffering and even that does some good. But if the only way we think we can be victorious in this fight is through the complete elimination of suffering, then we are setting ourselves up for failure. We will give up on the little acts of kindness altogether if we don’t see in each one of them a little victory over the evil and suffering that is present in the world. That is how we truly fail. This is how some revolutionary regimes end up perpetrating some of the greatest evils on the world. People become convinced that a perfect, suffering-free world is achievable and then somehow it doesn’t matter how much suffering has to be inflicted to make it happen. But Jesus didn’t command us to fix the world. What he commanded us to wash one another’s feet and to love one another.

We are all going to suffer in this life. Our Lord told us that that would be the case. And you never know how someone might be suffering, because it doesn’t always show on the surface. There is deep physical pain, there is psychological pain, there is always stuff going on in people’s lives that you know nothing about. Our job as Christians is to respond to suffering when we encounter it with mercy and grace. Our job is to alleviate suffering when we can, doing what we can, but not being overwhelmed or distracted by the misguided desire to fix everything or everyone and not falling prey to the false notion that God’s people are ever going to be able to eliminate suffering from their lives or the lives of others. Following Jesus will not eliminate suffering from your life, so we don’t need to be surprised when it comes along. But the cross is always a reminder to us that we don’t suffer alone. Our Lord is with us in our suffering and promises us grace and glory on the other side of suffering. 

Redeemed and alleviated suffering is the promise of Christ. Eliminated and avoided suffering is the someone else’s lie. 



Sermon for the Coronation Evensong

May 7th, 2023

There is only one true priest in the church. I have said this many times. We have only one great high priest and that is Our Lord Jesus Christ. And yet, hear I stand and there Father Matt sits, two individuals that have been each ordained as priests to serve God and his church. But you see, our priesthood is really just a sharing in Christ’s priesthood. It is his words that we proclaim, his offering that we offer, his blessing that we share. It is his example and teaching that we each seek to follow, although perhaps feebly and falteringly at times. All the power in the ministry of the priesthood belongs to Christ, it is not our own. The same thing can be said of the glory: the fancy robes and the attention we sometimes get and the respect that is often afforded us, it doesn’t belong to us as individuals, it belongs to Christ. We don’t deserve any of this. When we are ordained we are given the opportunity to share in his priesthood, but make no mistake, it is his priesthood. We are called, ordained or set-apart for a special vocation, but it’s not because there is anything individually extraordinary about either one of us; what really matters for priests is our ability and willingness to serve the one who truly is extraordinary. 

Now everything that I have just said about priests could, I think, equally be said about Kings and Queens. There is only one true King in this world. There is but one King of the Universe and that is our Lord Jesus Christ; the king of kings and lord of lords. There may be many different kings and queens that serve in his name, but kings, like priests are at their best when they are truly aware of who the real king is, and who they are truly serving. Kings, like priests don’t really deserve the honor and glory they are given, but then at the end of the day it isn’t really being given to them. It is being given to the one they serve. That is really what the pomp and circumstance is all about. 

Have any of you ever been to the ordination of a priest? If you go to a priestly ordination, it more or less goes like this: the candidate is first presented, then the candidate makes solemn vows and affirmations, there are prayers and symbolic acts of humility, scripture readings and a sermon, then the candidate is touched by the bishop and anointed with holy oil. Then the priest is vested according to his or her office with fancy robes, and is often given symbolic gifts that remind them of the work that they are to do. Then the eucharist is celebrated and finally the new priest is sent out to do the work that God has called him or her to do. If this order of service sounds vaguely familiar to you, it may be because this is quite similar to what you will have witnessed at yesterday’s coronation of King Charles III. For good reason.

To be an anointed king is to be set apart for a special vocation. We don’t often think of kings and queens as being ordained in the sense that priests are, but there is nonetheless something quite holy about the work that they are charged to do. Serving others is holy work. Living your life as a symbol that points people to a higher power, and sacred ideals and timeless values is holy work. Serving the king of kings, even as a king, is holy work. Which is why the coronation service only really works in the church in the context of Christian worship. Kings, like priests, need to be reminded of where their power comes from and who they truly serve. The work that they are called to do is holy work, and because it is extremely difficult work, kings and queens deserve our prayers. 

There will always be those who look at all of this and say “why bother?” There are people who think that monarchy is unsuitable for the modern age and a waste of time, money and resources. Oh well. There are people that don’t see the point of kings, just like there are people that don’t see the point of priests. Often these are the same people. Some people just don’t want to believe that there is a king of kings or a great high priest, much less that he calls ordinary men and women into his service. Oh well. You can preach your best sermon, and some will still remain unconverted. Oh well. If you want to live a drab life, without glory or majesty, without spectacle or reverence, without honor and duty, without beauty and mystery, then go right ahead, but its not the life for me. And as I think we witnessed both with the spectacle of the late queen’s funeral and with the majesty of yesterday’s coronation service, it isn’t a life that many people truly want. We need the majesty and the pomp and circumstance. We need holy oils and sacred rituals. We all need to be reminded, kings, priests and lay folks too, we all need to be reminded that we serve a majestic, higher power, and that through that power we can do amazing things, not in serving ourselves, but in serving God and others. We have all been anointed by the one whose very name means “anointed”: Christ. 

Today we give thanks for the coronation of King Charles III. May it be a reminder to all of us that we too have been anointed to serve the same king that he does. 




I think that it is critical for Christians always to remember that the head of our faith, the head of the church, the individual that we hold and believe to be God incarnate and the savior of the world, is someone that the world rejected. Rejected. The founder of our faith is someone who was rejected. You would think that the cross would make that clear to us, but it is amazing how often we forget it. We forget that Christianity hasn’t always been popular. Jesus hangs on the cross because he was rejected. When the people had a choice, they chose Barabbas. 

Sure, Jesus had a following for a while. He had known popularity; thousands had flocked to hear him preach or to be healed by him, but on the day that it really mattered, on the day when people were asked to choose, they chose Barabbas. When we got to choose, we didn’t choose God. We have to remember that, because as people of faith we are called to be concerned with the will of God. Things like right and wrong, that should matter to us. God’s will for our lives, God’s will for the world, that should matter to us. We should care. Maybe we will never be perfect; maybe we will always make mistakes, but we still need to be able to recognize that they are, in fact, mistakes. God, and God’s will should matter to us. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

But the cross should be an everlasting reminder that sometimes, many times, God’s will is not popular. God is not popular. Jesus was not always popular. Jesus was rejected. 

But Peter says that “the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” The cornerstone, the bedrock of our faith, is a stone that had been rejected by others. Thought unworthy, useless, flawed, maybe even weak. It was examined and cast aside by mortals, and yet it was precious in God’s sight. Peter didn’t make that line up though, he’s quoting from Psalm 118. Peter was writing his letter to share the good news of Jesus, but the fact that humans often reject God and God’s will, that was old news. Because you see this human tendency to reject and dismiss things, including individuals, that God values and treasures, this wasn’t a new phenomenon in Jesus’s day, this was human nature right from the get-go. Right from the beginning there has been this huge gap between what God wants and what we want. We have a long history of making bad choices, not just as individuals, but as entire societies. So what that means for us is, and what we must always remember, is that discerning the will of God is NEVER as simple as figuring out or following what is popular. What humans gleefully choose is often the opposite of God’s will. Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat. You just can’t trust opinion polls. Just because something is popular, doesn’t mean that it is good. 

Now that has always been a challenge for humans, but I think it is an even bigger challenge for us now in the 21st century in the age of social media, because we are constantly polling everyone, instantly, all the time. Everything is measured in likes and shares. People treat surveys like they are divine oracles. We are surveyed on everything. And we are constantly told, in subtle and not subtle ways, that might makes right. Millions of people can’t be wrong can they? Or can they? 

Every week when we pass through the doors of this church, we step out of a world where popularity is everything, and we come face to face with a God who was rejected. Jesus was rejected. So that should always give us some perspective on popularity. At least popularity among us humans. In God’s eyes and in God’s kingdom, human popularity doesn’t mean anything. God can take rejects and turn them into a chosen race and a royal priesthood. 

That’s the good news: you don’t need to worry about being unpopular, or having an unpopular religion or unpopular beliefs. Being rejected by the world does not mean that you are rejected by God. That’s the good news.

But here’s the bad news. The bad news is that that means that you actually have to do the work of discerning and learning God’s will. And when you have done that you must find the will and the strength to do what is right and to be faithful, even if it means going your own way and taking an unpopular path. You can’t just go along with the crowd. You have to think and decide for yourself. That’s hard. 

But the cross is also a reminder to us that even though the world has a very long history of casting down things that are truly precious, God has an equally long history of raising them back up again. The resurrection, which we celebrate at every service, but most especially at this time of year, is not God’s seal of approval on our good judgements and opinions, but quite the opposite. It is God taking a stone that we had rejected and thought unworthy, and making it the chief cornerstone of a grand new temple and kingdom. 

She saw because she believed


Sermon for April 16th, 2023

Low Sunday


In the original version of the movie King of Kings, not the 1960s film with Jeffrey Hunter, but the 1920s silent movie directed by Cecil B Demille, we get one of the most brilliant introductions to the character of Jesus in the history of Jesus movies. It was also, fittingly, one of the earliest depictions of Jesus in film. In Cecil B Demille’s movie, the first time we ever see the face of Jesus is through the eyes of a blind little girl that he heals. We hear about Jesus. We meet his disciples and even his mother, but his face is revealed to the audience through the eyes of a blind person as the screen transforms from darkness into light, and in the midst of the light, there is Jesus, for the first time. 

That one little scene was an inspired triumph of Demille’s. Brilliant. What better way to meet Jesus than through the eyes of someone who cannot see without him? The little girl is blind. She cannot see at all without Jesus. She needs help. She knows that she needs help. She is looking for help. She is looking for Jesus. The disciples and Mary give her a hand, they guide her and bring her to Jesus, but only he can heal her. And he does. His power gives her sight. And when her eyes are opened, this little girl instantly knows that this is her saviour, literally at first sight. But here is the little twist: she doesn’t believe in Jesus because she sees him; she sees because she believes in Jesus. She believed in Jesus before her eyes were opened, before she ever saw him. Her belief in him didn’t come from something she saw; it didn’t come from an examination of the evidence; it came from someplace deeper. Her heart was open to belief, her heart was open to God, before her eyes were. She doesn’t believe in Jesus because she sees him; she sees because she believes in Jesus.

In stark contrast to this blind little girl are the Pharisees and the scribes and the temple authorities, all of whom can see with perfect vision. They can see Jesus just fine. We are told actually that they are watching Jesus. They aren’t searching for Jesus, they are watching him. What are they watching for? A mistake. They are using their eyes to judge Jesus. Is he going to heal on the sabbath? Is he going to observe the law the way we think he ought to observe the law? Is he up to our standards? That’s what they want to know. Is he worthy enough for us?! Their hearts are so closed to Jesus, that even when they see him perform miracles, right in front of their eyes, they don’t believe. 

So the movie begins with a blind girl who believes in and trusts in Jesus before she ever sees anything, and a bunch of folks who never believe in or trust Jesus no matter how much they see. Believing doesn’t come from seeing. It comes from a disposition of the heart. It comes from someplace within. It is worth mentioning, or worth remembering, that I am talking about a film here, and a silent film at that. Who is Demille’s audience here? Who is he talking to? Well I would venture to say that it’s not the blind. This is a visual medium. Demille is talking to sighted people and he is reminding them not to put too much faith in what they see. 

You can’t always believe what you see and you don’t always need to see in order to believe. It is a message that we find woven into John’s gospel. A few weeks ago we heard a story about Jesus healing a little boy who was blind from birth and at the end of that story Jesus says “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” 

It is dangerous to put too much trust in what you see. Sometimes your eyes can deceive you. And it is possible to have perfect vision and to be completely blind to the spiritual realities of the world around you. You don’t need to see Jesus in order to believe in him. We are reminded of that again in today’s gospel which we always get the Sunday after Easter. Thomas didn’t see the risen Jesus on Easter Sunday, and he doesn’t want to believe the report that he is being given by the other disciples. He doesn’t trust them. He wants to judge for himself. He does see the risen Christ. He sees the marks of the nails in his hands and the wound in his side. But he is reminded by Jesus that you don’t need to see him in order to believe in him. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. 

As the good news of Jesus’s resurrection began to spread throughout the region, it was only natural that the next generation of believers would be people who never saw Jesus in the flesh and never witnessed the Resurrection. Peter was aware of this too in his letter this morning when he writes “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” From the very beginning there have been people who saw Jesus and didn’t believe in him and people who believed in Jesus without seeing him. Belief is more about the heart than it is the eyes. 

A few weeks ago I sent out with our weekly parish email a recording of one of my favorite Fanny Crosby hymns My Saviour First of All. Now if you don’t know the story of Fanny Crosby, you should. She was one of the most prolific hymn writers ever, composing something like 8,000 hymns. She was born in 1820 and died in 1915. Think about that for a second and everything that happened during her life. That was the entire Victorian age, plus the Edwardian age and a little more to spare. She wrote some of our favorite hymns: Blessed Assurance, To God be the Glory. She was a woman of profound faith who memorized vast passages of the scriptures. She was also blind her entire life. In her entire life she never saw one crucifix or stained-glass window or gilded icon or friendly sepia-toned Jesus picture. She never watched a movie about Jesus’s life. She never saw him with her eyes. At one point someone asked her how she would know Jesus when she got to heaven. That night she sat right down and wrote a hymn as an answer:

 When my life work is ended, and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see,
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.
I shall know Him, I shall know Him
And redeemed by His side, I shall stand.
I shall know Him, I shall know Him,
By the print of the nails in His hand.

I think of that hymn every time I hear this passage from John’s gospel and Thomas’s request and insistence to see Jesus’s wounds. Do we need to see them first in order to believe like Thomas, or can we like Fanny or the blind little girl in Demille’s film, can we choose to believe first and then through believing receive a more glorious vision than our earthly eyes could ever behold? 

I don’t condemn Thomas at all; he’s like so many of us. It is easy to only trust yourself and what you see with your own eyes. Jesus doesn’t condemn him for his skepticism and neither do I. And if the risen Jesus can get through locked doors maybe he can get through locked hearts too and convert the most recalcitrant souls. But still, I think it’s better if he doesn’t have too. 

Fanny Crosby knew that you could have life in Jesus’s name long before you ever meet him face to face. She didn’t believe because she saw, she saw because she believed.

God rolled that stone away


Sermon for Easter Sunday 2023


The world looks pretty dark for Mary on her way to the tomb. Who is going to save her now? Who’s going to change this evil world? What hope does she have for the future? Jesus’s followers have good reason to despair on their way to the tomb. Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, Peter and John, they have good reason to despair; they have every reason to feel downcast and hopeless. What did they have to hope for? How were things ever going to get any better? What could they do? Nothing!

Jesus was dead. Jesus their teacher, their leader, their loved one, their friend…he was dead. 

He had been put to death a few days ago by a tyrannical and oppressive government. He was basically beaten to death and humiliated first and then they stripped him and nailed him to a cross on the outskirts of town. Horrifying. This was Roman justice; this was the Roman idea of good government. What hope did the disciples have now of life getting any better? What could they do to change this situation? Nothing. Every attempt to overthrow these horrible, corrupt leaders ended up failing. Throughout history it had been this way. If the Hebrew people managed to offload one despot, before too long there would come another. 

Despite most of what Jesus said and taught, some of his followers had still harbored a hope that he would be the one who would help them to finally overthrow the Roman oppressors and build a more just society. He would fix things, or at least lead them to fix things. Well where was that hope now? It was dead. Sealed in a tomb, behind a heavy stone that was being guarded by a couple of Roman guards. Even in death the Romans were still keeping them under their thumb. Guards outside a tomb! There was a chance that the women heading to the tomb wouldn’t even be able to anoint Jesus’s dead body. The Roman soldiers certainly weren’t going to give them a hand. Who would help them now? Who would lead them?

Herod? Don’t be ridiculous. He was just a Roman puppet. He was worse than the Romans because he colluded with them to oppress his own people. He’s got Jesus’s blood on his hands as much as Pilate did. Then what about Barabbas and the other violent revolutionaries that wanted to spill Roman blood? Would that work? Well those methods would be tried, but they wouldn’t end well. Jesus had predicted that there would be suffering and bloodshed and that the temple would be torn down and he was right. That is how Barabbas’s methods ended: violence and complete destruction. The politicians weren’t making anything better. The revolutionaries just made things worse. It was a hopeless situation.

What light was there in Mary’s world? What hope did the disciples have? Could they trust the clergy? Of Course Not! The priests and the religious leaders were mostly corrupt, crooked, or incompetent. They were the ones who had arrested Jesus in the first place. There were some good, faithful ones, but they weren’t capable of saving Jesus. What could they do now?

Even Jesus’s friends and followers had turned their back on him when things got tough. John was at the foot of the cross, but where were the other men? Hiding, that’s where. And I am sure that Peter was still in his own agony on this dark morning, realizing that he can’t even trust himself to do the right thing when the chips are down. When it mattered, Peter had turned his back on the Lord and denied ever knowing him. But all the disciples had failed to save Jesus. 

What does Mary have to hope for in this dark world? Good government? No. Competent religious leaders? No. Faithful friends of Jesus? Not even that. No the world can be a very dark place when evil surrounds you and you feel powerless to make a difference or to make a change.

But when they got to that tomb they discovered that the stone had been rolled away. The stone that was sealing the tomb was gone. Who had done it? Was it the Romans, the government? No. Was it the priests and the religious authorities? No. Was it the disciples? No. Was it a random gardener? Not even that.

God rolled that stone away. God rolled the stone away. This was the work of God, not the work of man. Jesus rose from the grave without any help from the Romans, the priests, the disciples, or even from those faithful women who went to anoint him. He didn’t send out any surveys, or ask for anyone’s opinion. He didn’t ask for a helping hand to get up off that stone slab. He didn’t wait for his disciples to get their act together. 

The resurrection was not a carefully devised and packaged program for evangelization. It wasn’t some kind of group therapy or mass hallucination. There was no Kool-Aid being served up at the Last Supper. Jesus Christ rose from the dead through the power of God alone. His power. The Romans didn’t help. The priests didn’t help. The disciples didn’t help. Mary didn’t roll that stone away and neither did I and neither did you. God rolled that stone away. God transformed death into life. God proved that this is still his world and that he will be the one who has the final say. 

God rolled that stone away, and in doing so he is the one who transformed hopelessness into hope; he transformed darkness into light; He’s the one who’s gonna change this world; He’s the one who’s gonna save it. When Mary hears Jesus say her name in the garden, hope comes back into her world like a flash of light, but it isn’t hope in mankind it is hope in God. God can still be victorious even when men fail. In a world filled with injustice, incompetence, corruption and lies, God still keeps his promises. God can be trusted. 

Our hope as Christians is NOT in our own faithfulness, it is NOT in the plans and schemes of mankind; our hope is in the power of God. We don’t roll the stone away on death, God does. We don’t save the world, God does. Our roll, our task as Christians, is to do as a great old gospel hymn proclaims: to “go to a world that is dying, his perfect salvation to tell.”

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in his wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of his glory and grace.

You know, sometimes the world we live in doesn’t look much brighter for us than it did for Mary and the other disciples on the way to the tomb. Corrupt government, faithless clergy, war, injustice, lies, sin and death. It is easy to look around and wonder how we’re going to fix this. If I thought that it was up to me, or up to human beings, to roll the stone away on this dead and dying world, I would despair indeed and I would have good reason to despair. But Mary didn’t have to roll the stone away. Peter and John didn’t roll the stone away. The roman soldiers didn’t roll the stone away. Jesus got out of that tomb and saved the world without any help from us and that is good news and that is reason, good reason, for hope in a dark world. God isn’t waiting on us to figure things out or get our act together.

God rolled that stone away. 



Sermon for March 26th, 2023


The face of Jesus is shrouded from us today. The images of our Lord which are so familiar and beloved to those of us who worship here week by week, those images, those statues, those faces, are covered in shrouds. And not just Jesus, his mother too. These faces which we know so well and gaze at so often, these symbols of people that we dearly love, they are hidden from us today, and for the next couple of weeks. As we enter the church on this Fifth Sunday in Lent, knowing that we are nearing Holy Week and Easter, knowing that the annual remembrance of our Lord’s death and resurrection is coming soon, as we enter and gaze around today the symbol that we see before us, all around the church, is the very prominent symbol of the shroud. The body of our Lord is shrouded; the body of his mother is shrouded; even the cross is shrouded. 

And as we enter and see these shrouds this morning and perhaps wonder about their significance and meaning, at the same time, we hear in the gospel about another shroud. There is another shroud in the room this morning, it’s in our text, only this shroud isn’t covering a lifeless statue, it is covering a lifeless body, or perhaps I should say it WAS covering a lifeless body.

When we meet Lazarus in the gospel this morning he is covered in cloth. He is veiled. He is shrouded. It is his death shroud. Death shrouds are used in our culture far less nowadays, but I think we still more or less understand their use. They are used to cover the dead. You want your loved one to have dignity even in the grave, so you carefully cover them. It is a custom that provides respect to the dead and comfort to the living. Lazarus was wrapped in cloth, most likely by his sisters Martha and Mary, because he was dead. When Jesus arrives at the tomb of his dear friend he is dead; he has been dead for days. The reality of that death is evident to anyone who passes by. You can smell it. 

You probably know what happens in this story. Jesus speaks a word clearly and loudly. Jesus says “Lazarus, come out!” And Lazarus who had been dead moments before walks out of the tomb wearing his death shroud. But it wasn’t covering a lifeless body anymore. Lazarus was alive. Not as a spooky mummy or ghost, but the old Lazarus was alive again, in the flesh. And Jesus says “unbind him and let him go.” He doesn’t need that death shroud anymore, take it off of him. And the shroud is removed. 

This is resurrection. This is what resurrection is. Death being transformed back into life. This is an image, a vision, a foretaste of the Christian hope. Not cherubs strumming harps in some cloudy heaven, but dead bodies coming back to life. There are many who would say that this is a foolish and ridiculous hope. Crazy even. Bodies can be resuscitated, they can be brought back from near death, they can be healed, maybe even miraculously healed, but once a body is dead, it’s dead. That’s what the world wants us to believe. Even in the ancient world. The people standing outside Lazarus’s tomb, they believed that Jesus had the power to heal Lazarus, but they didn’t believe that he could bring him back from the dead. Only God could do that. 

Now there were plenty of Jews who believed that God would do that, someday. Someday, at the end of time, there would be a general resurrection, when the dead would be raised back to life. God’s people had had glimpses of that. The prophet Elijah brought a widow’s child back to life; the prophet Elisha brought two dead bodies back to life; and then of course there is that famous vision of the prophet Ezekiel that we heard just a moment ago, when the prophet is shown a valley of dry bones. Bodies that are completely dead; absolutely no chance of resuscitation. There isn’t even any flesh on them. And Ezekiel is asked: “Can these bones live?” Well the only reasonable, rational answer to that question is: “Of course not!” Dry bones don’t come back to life; dead bodies don’t come back to life. We know that. People in the ancient world knew that too. But the prophet says: “O Lord God, you know.” And the Lord showed Ezekiel a different future.

You heard how that story ended. Ezekiel saw the dead raised back to life. Ezekiel had a vision of a future day when God would raise the dead back to life and that vision, along with various other visions and scriptures and miraculous events became a source of hope for God’s people; hope for a future when death would be no more and shrouds would become obsolete. 

But it was a distant hope and a far-off day. But now that hope was standing right in front of Martha outside of her brother’s tomb. 

Jesus told Martha that her brother would rise again, and she agreed with him. Someday, on the last day, on that resurrection day we all long for, he will rise. But Jesus tells her, I am the resurrection. I am that day you are longing for. I am the one who transforms death into life. And Martha wants to believe him. She wants to believe. She proclaims that Jesus is the messiah, but she doesn’t quite understand or can’t comprehend that he is about to call her dead brother out of the grave, because when Jesus tells them to roll the stone away she protests: “It has been four days! There will be a smell.” She doesn’t understand Jesus’s power just yet, not completely, but she will soon. 

Can you imagine her joy in helping to rip off the burial shroud that just days before she had lovingly, but painfully wrapped around Lazarus’s body? The joy that Martha and Mary felt watching that shroud come off of Lazarus, that is Christian joy. It is, no doubt, the same joy and wonder that was felt by Mary Magdalene and Peter and John and the other disciples who all saw Jesus’s shroud on the floor in the tomb on Easter Sunday morning. On the floor, not covering a body but cast off, thrown away, being trampled into the dust like death itself. That is resurrection. Bodily resurrection. And that brothers and sisters, is the Christian faith. We believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. We believe in it, because we have seen it. Jesus showed us what resurrection was all about, and we have been promised that his resurrection will be ours too. Yes, we still believe in a general resurrection at the end of time, a great future day, but we can start living that resurrected life now, because we already live in relationship with Jesus who is the resurrection. That is the hope that drives the church.

But, my friends and fellow Christians who I hope share this hope with me, as we approach Holy Week and Good Friday and prepare ourselves to hear again the story of our Lord’s passion, I want to challenge you for a brief moment in time to imagine, looking at these shrouded bodies around us today, imagine what it would be like if these shrouds never came off. What if the shroud of death still clung to us like it clung to Lazarus? What if no stone was rolled away? 

As we approach Easter and the glorious, joyful proclamation of resurrection from the dead, it is worth pausing and reminding ourselves of just how precious this hope is. Thank God that we have it, but you know, much of the world doesn’t. It is worth contemplating, for a little bit, just what life would be like if we didn’t have this hope, if we didn’t have resurrection, if we thought that the shrouds were forever. So we will sit with the shrouds for a while, but don’t worry, they’re coming back off. 

It won’t be enough


Sermon for March 12th, 2023


It won’t be enough, you know.

Whatever it is you are chasing after; whatever you are longing for; when you finally get it, it won’t be enough. 

Food, drink, sex, money, attention, fame, power. These are the things that humans spend their lives chasing after and when they get them, they often discover, sadly, that they aren’t enough. We are never content; never completely satisfied. I wish that I could just blame this on capitalism, or “the Man,” or the system, or the government, or big pharma, or Madison Ave, or Wall Street. I wish that I could blame someone for our lack of contentment and all the misery that comes along with it. It would be so easy. I wouldn’t even have to lie. After all, politicians, big business, drug companies, ad executives, journalists, none of these individuals really want you to be happy. They want to sell you happiness, but in order to do that true contentment always needs to be one more transaction or one more vote away, otherwise they’d be out of business. It would be so easy to just blame them, but the truth is, the problem, the real problem, lies within us. Each of us. We are the ones who are never satisfied or content. We are the ones who always want more. That is why it is so easy for us to be manipulated and led astray by charlatans and devils. That is the story of humanity, and that is the great insight of the Bible into human nature. From the very beginning of Genesis the Bible makes it clear that it is this discontent, this longing for just that little bit more, that is the cause of the downfall of humanity. 

No matter what we chase after, when we finally get it, it is never enough. We always want more.

Was it enough that God sent plagues upon Egypt to convince Pharoah to set the Hebrews free? No.

Was it enough that God led his people with a cloud and fiery pilar? No.

Was it enough that God split the sea to let his people escape, or that he released the waters to trap the Egyptians in their own evil? No. 

Was it enough that God sent manna from heaven? Or Quails? No.

Was it enough that God had already turned bitter water into sweet? 

Not for us humans, because it’s never enough for us. I am reminded of this beautiful anthem that the choir sings on Good Friday, the Reproaches, which are based on a passage from the Prophet Micah, but are basically God saying to his people: “what more could I have done for you?” But it is never enough for us.

In the Exodus story this morning, we find the Hebrews journeying through the desert. They have seen visible signs of God’s presence among them all along the way. All along the way, God has provided for their needs. Now they need water again. That’s only natural. You can’t blame them for being thirsty. It’s the desert and human bodies need regular fluids and nourishment. You can’t blame them for being thirsty. But these people who have seen God’s salvation over and over again, why don’t they just ask God for what they need? Why don’t the Hebrews ask God for water? But they don’t. What do they do? Well their first course of action is to go to Moses and complain. Not just complain, but complain bitterly. They are angry, they want to stone him, they blame him for all their problems. No matter how many times God has already saved these people and proven himself to them, it’s not enough. They still don’t trust him. There’s still no faith. Now it could be that these people have already forgotten what God did for them in the last chapter. Humans have notoriously short memories. But it could also be that these people don’t recognize that the God that saved them in the past is still with them. He’s right there. I think that is really the bigger issue. People just don’t recognize that the God who has saved them in the past and who is going to save them now is right there in the midst of them. They don’t recognize that God is there, so they go to Moses and complain.

But what does God tell Moses to do? God doesn’t just say “give them some water.” God gives Moses very specific instructions. God tells Moses to take the staff that he used to perform his first miracle; the stadf that he used to turn the Nile into blood, the first plague to strike Egypt; the first sign of God’s concern for his people; that, incidentally, was the same staff that Moses held over the sea to make it split in two; this staff that has been in Moses’s hand throughout this journey to freedom. God tells Moses to take that potent symbol of his power and his presence and to use that to strike the rock and make water come forth. And God tells Moses that I will be standing there, right in front of you on the rock. But the people don’t see God, they can only see the symbol of his presence, the staff, and even then some manage only to see the water. Enough to quench their thirst for now, but not for long. And the place is given a name that means “is the Lord among us or not?” Fitting, because most of the people there can only see the water, and not the true source of it. It was that inability to see the presence of the Lord that led to all that quarrelling and anguish. That was what made people question if there would be enough. It’s an ongoing problem for us humans. If we don’t recognize God’s presence among us; if we can’t see that the God who saved us in the past is here with us now, then nothing else we chase after or long for will ever be enough. 

This water that the Hebrews miraculously drank from the rock. It wasn’t enough actually. Moses will have to go through this whole scenario again. If you think that the Bible repeats itself, it is because human history repeats itself. God saves us and we forget. God provides for us, and we forget. We forget that God is present among us. We forget that we can ask God for what we need. We forget God and we panic and quarrel. We forget God and chase after other things, but the other things are never enough. The problem isn’t with these Hebrews in the desert; the problem is with humanity. Throughout time.

On one of his journeys, Jesus met a woman at a well. She wasn’t Jewish, she was a Samaritan. Samaritans are related to Jews, but let’s just say it’s complicated. She has come to fill her water jars, but they won’t be enough. She will have to come back again and again and again. Of course, we also know that water isn’t the only thing this lady has been chasing after but never quite getting enough of, she has had five husbands and is on candidate number six right now. And don’t you folks go shaming her because you’re secretly jealous either! We don’t know much about her back story; maybe the men in her life couldn’t get enough either. Jesus knows your secrets too, just like he knew hers. And he offers you the same thing: grace and life, refreshment, rebirth, that is more than enough. We need it, just like those villagers in the story needed it. There is in each and every one of us a voice of discontent that never wants us to be satisfied with what we have; that is always driving us to that next thing which never quite seems to be enough. We are a hungry and thirsty people and until we learn to look to God, to recognize God’s presence among us and to ask God to supply and satisfy our needs, nothing else we chase after will ever be enough. 

O Wondrous Type


Sermon for February 19th, 2023


On this, the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, as the Church is preparing to make the turn into our Lenten season and the journey which leads us symbolically both to the cross and to the resurrection of Our Lord, we hear the familiar gospel passage of Jesus on the mountaintop, transfigured before a few of his disciples. They have a vision. It is an experience; an encounter with something mysterious. For a moment, Jesus’s appearance changes right before their eyes. They already loved him and respected him. These disciples had been following him for a while now. They knew that Jesus was a wise teacher, that’s why they were there, but now they saw something else: they saw glory. They saw light, radiance coming from him. They saw power. It was a strange power too, because it both terrified them and comforted them. It brought them to their knees, but then immediately said to them “do not fear.” 

But then they saw something else too, as Jesus’s image was transformed or transfigured before them, they also saw two very familiar figures beside him: Moses and Elijah. Now I don’t think that the Bible had pictures in Jesus’s day, so I don’t know how Peter and James and John recognized that this was Moses and Elijah; I doubt that they were wearing name tags. There must have just been something about them that made the disciples realize “oh wait, I know who you are! I recognize you!” Sort of like walking through a church and looking for symbols in the stained-glass windows that help you figure out the story that is being told. You look for the clues that tell you who this is. Maybe Moses was carrying a couple tablets and looked like Charlton Heston. Maybe Elijah was riding on a chariot of fire. These are details I would like to know, but sadly the scriptures don’t give them. What the scripture does tell us though is that there is this profound moment when these disciples recognize that there is this mysterious connection between this man that they know, Jesus, and these two men that their ancestors knew, Moses and Elijah. There is some intimacy, there is some dialogue between these three figures.  They are related. That is what this vision reveals to them: there is a connection here. Pay attention! God is showing them something.

You may or may not be familiar with the word ‘type’ as it is used in reference to scripture or religion, but it pops up now and then, even in our hymns, and it is a very important concept to understand, not just for when you are reading the Bible, but also to help you see God at work in your daily life. 

“O wondrous type, o vision fair of glory that the church may share” we sang in our opening hymn this morning. Type. There is also the old Latin hymn Tantum Ergo that we sing at special services here that celebrate the Eucharist: “Therefore we before him bending, this great sacrament revere. Types and shadows have their ending, for the newer rite is here.” Types and shadows. So, what is a type? What does that word mean in this context? 

Well, I don’t usually use props in the pulpit, but in this case, I think it is genuinely helpful to use a visual. We all know what this is. It is an arrow. An arrow is a symbol or a sign that points you in a direction. It says to you, “go this way,” or “go that way.” We see arrows all the time. Our lives are filled with arrows that guide us and direct us. They point us to where we want to go and hopefully move us away from places we don’t want to go. They show us the way. Well, the easiest way to understand a type, is to think of it as an arrow. A type is a symbol that points you in a direction. A type is revealing something to you. It is directing you to something else. 

Our scriptures are filled with types; symbols that direct. Scriptural passages that point you to other scriptural passages. Arrows. For Christians, what all these arrows are ultimately pointing to is God. Specifically, the God who was incarnate in Jesus Christ. The arrows are revelations of God, that point us to the supreme revelation of God in Jesus. Sometimes those arrows are people, great heroes of the Bible: Jonah, Moses, Elijah, Joshua, Noah. All of them, in their own way, arrows pointing to God. Jonah calling the people of Ninevah to repentance and offering them God’s forgiveness. Moses and Joshua, leading God’s people out of slavery into the promised land. Elijah, calling the dead to life. Noah, saving humanity by carrying them through the waters. All in their own way, these figures pointed to what God was going to do in Jesus, but they also reveal to us little glimpses of who our God is, and what he is like and what he is up to. Beginning with those three disciples on the mountaintop, the early Christians looked back at their scriptures, their history and their faith, and they began to realize that all along the way there had been these arrows, symbols, that had been directing them to Jesus. Before Jesus was ever born, God had been revealing himself to his people. Showing them his character. Peter and James and John had this great moment of revelation, but part of that revelation was the realization that God has been directing and guiding and pointing us to himself all along. 

And see, part of what is amazing about types, is that they are each encounters with God. It is as if every time you find one of these arrows in scripture, it is being held in God’s hand. God is directing YOU to where he is. God is revealing himself to YOU. Not just to the people in Ninevah, or the Hebrews in Egypt, or to people living in distant lands and ancient times. God is revealing himself to you. You are being given the chance to see Jesus for who he really is, just like those disciples on the mountaintop. 

Some of the early Christian leaders believed that the world could be filled with types. Not just the scriptures, but the world you and I live in today. I’m inclined to think they were right. Who is to say, if you encounter someone or something that points you to God in Jesus Christ, well who is to say that you haven’t just had an encounter with God? Who is to say that God isn’t constantly trying to point us and direct us and guide us along the way? The way, of course, which leads to him. That is after all, where God is leading us. God is leading us to himself. God is pointing us to himself. Our opening hymn this morning reminds us, that this isn’t just about the past; it is about the future as well. When these arrows point us to Jesus, when they show us the face of God, they show us the Father who will someday hold us in perfect peace. 

With shining face and bright array, Christ deigns to manifest today

What glory shall be theirs above, who joy in God with perfect love.



Sermon for February 5th, 2023

Annual Meeting Sunday


I received a love note from the altar guild last week. It was stuck to my computer screen and read simply: Holy Water. It was a gentle reminder to me that we were running out of Holy water in the sacristy and that I needed to bless some more. Now of course, because I think antiquated rituals are the best kind, the blessing that I use to make holy water here is a very bold one. Not just old…bold. It doesn’t mince words about casting out demons and evil spirits, and it confidently proclaims that there is power, real spiritual power, in blessing things in Christ’s name. I like that. When it comes to our own power and abilities and understanding and righteousness, we Christians are called to be humble; but when it comes to Christ’s power, we don’t need to be humble. We need to be bold. And that holy water blessing is bold. 

And a funny thing if you have never observed it, the blessing also involves salt. Quite a lot of salt actually. When you make holy water in this very traditional way, you mix salt with it. You exorcise (yes, exorcise!) the salt, then you bless it. You exorcise the water, then you bless that. Then you mix the salt and the water together, and bless the whole lot of it again. Now there is some biblical symbolism to this mixture of salt and water. Elisha the prophet cast salt into water in the second book of kings to purify it and give it healing properties. But pouring salt into the water also has a very practical benefit: it is a preservative. Salt keeps things from growing in the water that you would rather not have growing. Leave some untreated fresh water in a container for a few weeks and you will see what I mean. It can be pretty gross. But throw in some salt and the bacteria and algae just have a harder time growing. I love it when the physical world and the spiritual world intersect like that. The salt isn’t just a symbol; it properties are real.

Salt meant something to our ancestors that I fear we are losing touch with. It has gotten a bad rap lately. We think of salt as something that is bad for us, that we should avoid, but the truth is, without salt we would all be dead. Salt isn’t just something you sprinkle on your French fries, it is an essential nutrient. Our bodies need it. And before we had refrigeration, we had salt. Salt preserves food. Ham, bacon, salami, corned beef, pickles, sauerkraut, and almost everything that comes in a can or a jar, is salted. The salt makes the good stuff taste better, but it also makes it harder for the bad stuff to grow. That is part of the essential nature of salt. It enhances AND it preserves. It increases flavor and it decreases contaminants.

Now, I have about a dozen different types of salt in my kitchen cabinet. They weren’t all expensive, and I’m not trying to brag here about being extravagant or having super refined tastes. For the record, I have a box of cheap generic iodized table salt that I use all the time. But as someone who loves food and loves to cook, over the years I have discovered the great diversity of salts in the world and their different characteristics and uses. So in addition to table salt I have kosher salt, and sea salt. And even sea salt has different types: there is fine salt from the Red sea, coarse salt from the French Mediterranean. There is pink Himalayan salt, pink Hawaiian salt, Dead Sea salt, grey salt, black salt, smoked salt, celery salt, garlic salt, truffled salt. I think Maldon flaked salt is one of my favorites. Different salts have different qualities and uses, but they all have that essential nature of enhancing and preserving. If salt doesn’t do at least one of those things, then it is completely useless. It doesn’t matter how many types of salt there are, if they aren’t each in their own way salty, then they aren’t good for anything. There is a reason why we don’t go around sprinkling beach sand on our food: it wouldn’t do anything. It wouldn’t enhance or preserve, it would just be gritty and gross. Salt changes things. That is why we use it. 

What does church do? Does belief in God change your life in any way? Does Christianity make life richer and more beautiful? Does faith in Jesus help to inhibit the growth of some dangerous things? What is it good for?

In our gospel this morning Jesus calls his disciples the salt of the earth. They would have understood that he was referring to something that is vital; an essential element of life. Something of great value and great use. He wasn’t just talking about a little salt shaker on the table that maybe you use to give your dinner a little extra flavor, but probably should avoid. Salt, real salt, was a powerful life-giving, life-preserving thing. It changes things. But then Jesus poses an interesting question: what happens when salt loses its saltiness? If it doesn’t enhance flavor, if it doesn’t preserve, if it doesn’t change anything at all and essentially becomes like sand, then what would you do with it? Well you would just throw it out of course. It’s not good for anything. What happens if Christianity loses its life-changing power? 

What good is a Christian that doesn’t believe in God or a church that doesn’t pray? What good is it to be vaguely ‘spiritual’ if you don’t actually demonstrate or experience any of the actual fruits of the spirit in your life? You remember what the fruit of the spirit is, don’t you? Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. If you don’t have any of that in your life, then why on earth would anyone be interested in the God you worship or the church you attend? If you don’t believe that your God has the power to change things, and if faith doesn’t have any real effect on your life, then why should anyone else bother with it? 

Jesus also called his disciples the light of the world. He told them to let their light shine before the world. How does that light shine? Through Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. The fruit of the spirit is the saltiness of the Christian life. It enhances it. It flavors our lives with purpose and meaning. It inhibits the growth of some things that don’t have any business in our lives. The fruit of the spirit is the light in our lives that other people see that draws them to give glory, not to us, but to our God. None of this is for us or about us. It is for and about God. There are probably more types of Christians and churches in the world than there are types of salt, each may have their own unique characteristics and uses, but underneath the differences should be the same essential element of a living relationship with Jesus Christ that changes us; a relationship that both enhances life and preserves it. 

Our style of worship here and the way we do things here in this church, it’s not going to be for everyone and there is nothing wrong with that. There will always be some people who just don’t get us. That’s ok. We don’t need to be like everyone else. What we need to be is salty, bold, a bright light to others. We need to be people who have faith not in our own abilities and plans, but in a God that has power to change things, and bless things, and heal things, and yes even cast down demons with water blessed in his name. We aren’t called to be perfect. We aren’t called to be everything to everyone. We aren’t called to have all the answers. We aren’t called to save the world, but we are called to be a people whose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control and a witness to the savior who does. 

Blessed Charles


Sermon for January 29th, 2023

Commemorating King Charles the Martyr


Our Lord is at the height of his popularity when he delivers the Sermon on the Mount. There are thousands flocking to hear this Galilean preacher. And the vast mob of people that have gathered around Jesus have tremendous respect and admiration for him. They love him.

It won’t always be this way. Jesus knows that it won’t always be this way. 

In his sermon, Jesus famously talks about all the people who are blessed in God’s eyes: the poor in spirit, those who are mourning, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the peacemakers, the persecuted. These people are blessed in God’s eyes. That’s what he says. That’s interesting. 

But then Jesus says something even more interesting. He says, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” 

There is a prediction in that statement…and a warning. Jesus knows that the tide of public opinion is going to turn against him. He’s popular right now, but in a minute, so to speak, he won’t be. It’s sort of like our Palm Sunday ritual where the same folks who shout “Hosanna” at the beginning of the service end up shouting “crucify him” before the mass has ended. The mob that is adoring him right now is much the same way. They will soon enough be abandoning him or even be calling for his death and eventually the death of his followers. That’s the prediction in Jesus’s statement. The warning is implied: don’t go tying up popularity and public approval with God’s favor and blessing. They are not linked. There is no direct link between public approval and God’s approval, except for maybe sometimes a reverse link: sometimes God’s light is shining on and in, people that the world has rejected.

You see, we have to be very careful with things like popularity, and public approval and opinion polls, and yes, even votes. We have to be careful, because you see the public changes its opinion all the time. Popular one minute, unpopular the next. Ridin’ high in April, shot down in May. Popularity and public approval don’t necessarily have anything to do with what is righteous or blessed in God’s eyes. What the world considers to be wise on Friday afternoon, it will condemn as foolishness on Monday morning. To make matters worse, public opinion is not only fickle, it also has no mercy. Public opinion shows no mercy. Remember that. Remember. 

Remember when you are deciding what to put your faith in, remember when you are deciding where to put your trust, and what to value. Remember that we do not worship a God of public opinion. Our God doesn’t do surveys, but our God does show mercy. Remember that. Remember that our faith is not built on what this world values, but on what God values. We are not measured by human standards, but by divine standards. It isn’t strength in the world’s eyes that ultimately matters, it is strength in God’s eyes. That is what it means to be blessed: to be strong in God’s eyes. 

Today we commemorate someone who in the world’s eyes was very weak. Charles Stuart, otherwise known as King Charles the first of England, Scotland and Ireland, or King Charles the Martyr, was in many ways weak in the world’s eyes. Unlike his brother-in-law, Louis the 13th of France, Charles did not have absolute power and authority in his realm; English kings didn’t. It was a more limited monarchy. And historians, like the Monday morning quarter backers that they are, love to point out all the mistakes that Charles made with the authority that he did have. He did make mistakes, and like every human that has walked this earth except our Lord, he was a sinner who had serious flaws. In the world’s eyes, he was an imperfect man and an imperfect king. In the world’s eyes, he was weak. When public opinion turned against him, he lost a war and lost his head. So why remember him?

Because despite whatever flaws Charles might have had, he was also a man of faith. The Anglican faith to be exact. It was the faith of his father King James, to whom we owe the King James Bible. But Charles’s faith was not the faith of stripped-down puritanism; it was a faith with pomp and beauty and ceremony and tradition. It was a faith that he believed had been handed down through the apostles and through the bishops of the church and through ancient ritual and scripture. At one time, Charles’s vision of the Anglican faith was very popular, but you know how it goes with popularity. It’s fickle. There was growing opposition in Charles’s time to anything remotely resembling “popery.” It didn’t matter to Charles. He thought that his faith was worth fighting for. He thought it was worth dying for. On the scaffold before the crowd he declared:

I die a Christian, according to the profession of the Church of England, as I found it left me by my father.

He forgave those who condemned him to die and he proclaimed: I have a good cause and a gracious God. I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where no disturbance can be. No disturbance in the world.

Charles was not a perfect man; saints never are. But he was a man of faith. He was a man who put more trust in God than he did public opinion. He may have lost an earthly crown, but in exchange he gained a heavenly one. As our Lord reminds us this morning, such people are indeed blessed.