Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Dr Victor Lee Austin at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, September 29, 2019, Michaelmas

Dr. Austin is Theologian-in-Residence for the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas.

Angels’ Role(s)

The feast of Saint Michael and All Angels brings much joy to many of us, for all sorts of reasons. May I begin with a personal reason? Susan, my late wife, and I deliberately chose this feast as the date for our marriage, some 41 years ago in Santa Fe. It fell on a Friday that year. Many people asked us, Why don’t you get married on Saturday? We replied, But that wouldn’t be the feast of St Michael! People named Michael, not to mention angels, were important to us.

I suppose we were putting our marriage under the protection of St Michael. Protection is an important role that angels play—Jesus refers to guardian angels—and the protection provided by angels is nothing to sneeze at. Sneeze at the devil if you wish; indeed, the devil has a smell that should bring to all healthy nostrils a violent sneeze. But don’t sneeze at angels. There are spiritual forces for good in this vast universe of God’s creating.

Our first child was named Michael. We often told him that his name, Mi-cha-el, means the question “Who is like God?” The name Michael thus points to the defending role that angels play, in particular, their protection against any who would claim to displace God. Who claims to be like God?—that’s Michael’s challenge, for no one can be like God. My wife and I would often remind our son about that question mark on his name. A “Michael” is not someone who is like God; a “Michael” is rather one who takes up God’s cause against anyone who would claim to be like God!

It is near impossible to understand why anyone would want to go against God, to usurp God’s place, to want to be like God, to be in the place of God, to be God—and yet it is the case, some people—and some angels—have opposed God from the beginning. Opposition to God goes back as far as we can see. The serpent, the snake in the garden, tempted our first parents with the thought that they could be “like God.” Some have suggested that he, the serpent, was upset by God’s infatuation with this bungling human being that he had made. He, the serpent, was the subtlest creature of God, he was the one who ought to be God’s favorite. And so to prove his importance, he insinuated to Eve (and through her, Adam) that they had in themselves the autonomy to declare what’s good and what’s evil. This is the usurpation of God: to take upon oneself to decide the meaning of things, to say: I can declare what’s good and what’s evil, I can define what’s right and wrong. This, of course, remains a live temptation today, for groups as well as for individuals. Many social practices and trends of thought presume to take God’s place, to define for themselves what’s good and evil.

But whenever we would try to push God aside and define for ourselves what’s right and wrong, we end up hurting people, ourselves and others. It is the job of angels to oppose all this; when angels battle God’s enemies they at the same time defend the goodness and dignity of every human being.

+++

So angels protect; we could call that the guardian function, indeed, the “Michael” function. But they do much more. They also reveal things, and this is the “Gabriel” function. Gabriel appears to the virgin Mary and reveals to her that utterly unexpected thing God was prepared to do—to take human flesh in her womb. And more than that: he reveals to her that she can freely participate in that unexpected thing.

This revelatory role for angels, like everything about angels, goes back long before the New Testament. Here’s a case from the year, oh, about 1800 B.C., a story told in the book of Genesis.

A man is escaping from a messy situation; his brother has reason to take his life and the brute force to do so. The man comes to a certain place for the night, and in his sleep he dreams. In his dream the sky opens, and there’s a ladder, propped up from the earth into that opening in the sky. A connection exists, in this place, in his dream, between his life on this earth and the place where God dwells (which is what “heaven” means: heaven is a created “place” that God has made so that he can be close to his creation). In this dream God is up there in his place, heaven, but the communication between God and man is made visible: there is that ladder with the angels of God going up and down upon it. God speaks to this man in his dream, and confirms that he has a future. God will be “with” him and “keep” him into that future; despite the messiness and danger and forthcoming troubles and struggles, his life will never be cut off from the life of God.

It is an angelic revelation, and it shows how God is always close to us. There is that ladder, there are those angels: no matter where we go, no matter what happens to us, we have access to communication with God. We will never be cut off.

This is true for us—it’s not merely an ancient picture that might make us feel a little better—because Jesus is that ladder. This we know from the New Testament, from Saint John’s gospel. There is a man named Nathaniel sitting under a fig tree. His friend Philip finds him there, and urges him to come meet Jesus. When Nathaniel arrives, Jesus recognizes him, and calls him a man without guile. Nathaniel is perhaps flattered (who wouldn’t be?), but he doesn’t know how Jesus knows him. Jesus tells him: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” And Nathaniel believes. He calls Jesus the son of God and the king of Israel.

This, however, is not the end of it. Jesus then says, Thou shalt see greater things than these. . . . Ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

Jesus deliberately references Jacob’s dream. And the “you” in what he says—“ye shall see . . . angels . . . ascending and descending”—that “you” is plural. It starts out singular—thou, Nathaniel—then it turns plural. In Texas we say “y’all.” It means all the disciples. It means all those who hear this Gospel read through the centuries. It means you who are sitting here in pews on Beacon Hill in the city of Boston. For you to see: angels ascend and descend upon Jesus, who is Jacob’s ladder but not confined to that place where Jacob had his dream but is wherever the Holy Spirit is. Since Jesus’ gift to all who would receive him is the Holy Spirit, wherever you are there is this ladder, there is this communication; wherever you are, you are not cut off from God.

But don’t forget the preamble: “Thou shalt see greater things than these.”

This is the final role of angels that I will speak about today. Beyond protection (guardian, Michael), beyond revelation and communication with God (Gabriel, ladder), angels are God’s assurance to us our future is in his hands. I’m referring to things like this: We often look to the past with regret and to the present with fear of losing what we have. People we have loved dearly have died, and those we love dearly right now may be slipping away. The leaves here in Boston (and how glad I am to visit your fair city at this fine time!)—the leaves are just on the edge of turning; next month they will become brilliant colors, then they will fall, and after that, the darkness. You may be a baby with your whole life ahead of you: but what will that life be? You may be young and in the fullness of your life, but times are difficult and you wonder if you’ll get opportunities. Or you’re like me, a widower who with good health might still have a productive decade or two or even three. Or your own summer is coming to an end, and winter is closing in.

Friends! All these thoughts, these pictures, these worries—they are deceptions. They are wrong and delusional because they leave angels out of the picture! Remember Jesus’ words: Thou shalt see greater things than these. “Thou”—you individually, you Nathaniel, you, whatever your name is, you individually will see greater things. Each of us shall see—all of us shall see. Of course, cities pass away. We know empires fall. We’ve seen buildings crumble. And while we have time, we do our best to shore them up and perhaps improve them a bit. But when Boston (or Dallas) is as much an ancient memory as the Roman Empire, you, a creature of God made for eternity, you will still be alive; and if you are God’s friend, you will still be a creative, communicative creature, in love with God, in love with all those who love God, in that place of true communications, the angels continually ascending and descending.

Angels: they bring God’s protection to us, they are God’s communication with us, and they assure us that, for each one of us, there are still greater things to come.

 

 

Collect for Michaelmas

O everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the ministries of angels and men in a wonderful order: Mercifully grant that, as thy holy angels always serve and worship thee in heaven, so by thy appointment they may help and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This Week at the Advent, September 29-October 5, 2019

Welcome to the Church of the Advent! If you are new to the area, visiting, or seeking a church home, we are glad you’re here and hope to have a chance to greet you in person. Please join us downstairs following the service for a coffee hour.

Child care is offered during the 9 am and 11:15 am services; an usher can guide you to the nursery.

Welcome cards are located in each pew; please fill one out so we can keep in touch.


The flowers at the High Altar and screen are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Vance Hosford.

The flowers in the Chapel of All Saints are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Maj. Loren K. and Leora Smith.

The flowers in the Baptistry are given to the Glory of God and in thanksgiving for the baptism of Michael Allen Constantine Wiederschain Brown.


TODAY!


9:00 Coffee Hour: Hosts this morning are Will Joyner & Linda Jones, and Darcy Montaldi and Tony Pulsone. Next Sunday’s hosts are Mary & Paul Roberts, and David Russo & Matt McNeff. If you would like to sign up to host coffee hour, please contact Barbara Boles by phone, 617-501-7572, or email, bbolesster@gmail.com, if you’re interested or have questions.

11:15 Coffee Hour: Today’s hosts are Fred Mazyck and Jean & Marie Rateau. We are always in need of more volunteers; to view the schedule of available dates and select a date to co-host, please go to http://theadventboston.org/1115-coffee-hour-signup/. If you have any questions, please contact Frederick Ou (frederick.ou@gmail.com), Roxy Hanson (roxenewu@yahoo.com) or Betsy James (ejames4@nc.rr.com).


 Today we welcome the Rev’d Canon Dr. Victor Austin. Canon Austin is a priest and scholar with experience in parish ministry as a rector in upstate New York, and in the academic world teaching in various colleges and General Theological Seminary, in New York. He is a graduate of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM, General Theological Seminary and earned a PhD in theology from Fordham University. He became canon theologian-in-residence in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas in September 2016, and previously held a similar post at St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue.

With a theological focus on Christian ethics, he has written Up with Authority: Why We Need Authority to Flourish as Human Beings, which was short-listed for the Michael Ramsey Prize in 2013. His recent writing exists at the intersection of theology and everyday life. His memoir Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest’s Wife, and the God Who Gives and Takes Away has received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly: Nonfiction Book Review. It tells of his 34-year marriage to Susan, who had brain cancer in the midst of their marriage that was successfully treated, but who then suffered mental decline for almost 20 years. His other books include Priest in New York City: Church, Street, and Theology; A Priest’s Journal; and Christian Ethics: A Guide for the Perplexed.


The Entr’acte series of adult courses resumes today with the four-part series, Christ and Culture Today. Frs. Welch and Hanson, along with Advent parishioner and PhD candidate in philosophy Nicholas Westberg, discuss and debate Richard Niebuhr’s classic work, Christ and Culture, as well as the issues that the text still raises for us today. Christ and Culture is a clear, careful, and even-handed study of the ways Christians have related to the culture around them, ranging from total rejection to uncritical acceptance and various perspectives in between. Frs. Welch and Hanson and Mr. Westberg will present Neibuhr’s taxonomy and update his findings for our current situation in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.

Our history as American Episcopalians has been shaped by the most extreme ends of the Christ and culture spectrum, all the way from Episcopalian pacifists who were imprisoned for not taking up arms, to the more familiar (and numerous!) “Country Club Episcopalians” who, fairly or unfairly, have been judged for making a comfortable accommodation to their surrounding culture. It is important to understand these polarities as the culture war still rages around us and to imagine the distinctive contribution we can make as Anglo-Catholics, who interpret the question of Christ and culture as a subset of faith’s relationship to reason, and can therefore chart a middle course. For there is certainly truth and goodness found in human culture, but there is also distinct truth and goodness revealed to us in Jesus and the Scriptures that witness to him. And there is also the powerful and attractive alternative view articulated by Anglican theologian Frederick Denison Maurice of how Christ does not just reject or accept culture but transforms it in his own image.

These Entr’acte presentations are intended to be a conversation between the three leaders but with ample opportunities for others to join in. It should be fun and illuminating, so please join us. Copies of Christ and Culture are available in the Advent Bookstore; it is not required reading for these sessions, but some might find it helpful. This series continues through October 20.


THIS WEEK


There will be a Mass of Remembrance for June Knowles on Wednesday, October 3, at 11:00 am at the Advent. The committal will immediately follow the Mass at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Dorchester Center.  


NEXT SUNDAY


In honor of St. Francis: October 4 is the day the Church has set to honor and give thanks for the life and witness of Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the Order of Saint Francis, known as a lover of God’s Creation and one of our most well-known and popular saints. So in keeping with the celebration of his life and witness, we will host our annual Blessing of Animals on October 6 at 3:00 pm in the Church’s chancel.

In the morning the children will be able to enjoy a petting zoo in the garden off Moseley Hall beginning after the 9:00 am Mass. Just as Saint Francis gave thanks for all God’s creatures and truly appreciated how creation returns thanksgiving to God, so we will have the opportunity to appreciate and enjoy many of God’s creatures.


COMING UP


Errata: The recent mailing of the fall music brochure included information about the talks following upcoming services of Evensong & Benediction, both of which will be a part of our 175th anniversary celebration. Unfortunately, each was listed with an incorrect date. Here are the correct dates:

October 20:  “Manton Eastburn: Man of Sorrows”

November 17:  “The Holiness of Beauty: Music and the Anglo-Catholic Movement”

Additional talks on Advent history and Anglo-Catholic heritage are scheduled for 2020. More information on those to come.


VOLUNTEER(S) NEEDED:

One Warm Coat is a national non-profit organization that works to provide a free, warm coat to any person in need, supporting individuals, groups, companies, and organizations across the country by providing tools and resources to hold successful coat drives. Coats are distributed in the communities where they were collected, and since its inception in 1992 the organization has given away more than six million coats. We would like to host a coat drive here at the Advent as we did last year, but we need someone to take the lead and organize and direct our drive. If you’re able and willing to take on this good work, please call the parish office or speak to one of the clergy. To learn more about One Warm Coat, please go to OneWarmCoat.org.


MICHAELMAS UPDATE FROM THE WARDENS

Dear Members and Friends of the Church of the Advent:

Each year when we reach late September, the celebration of the great Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels marks a sort of unofficial start to our program year. The Church School has restarted, the Choirs are back, Entr’acte and our other education programs have begun, and programs of service such as the Community Dinner continue full speed ahead. This year we are pleased to welcome the Rev’d Canon Dr. Victor Austin as our preacher for Michaelmas. Fr. Austin presently serves as Canon Theologian to the Bishop of Dallas; many of you may be familiar with him from his previous service at St. Thomas Church in New York City. Fr. Austin will also be leading the annual Vestry Retreat the day before.

You are likely aware that the application period for the Rector Search closed in August. We should all be thankful for the extraordinary response: over thirty priests applied. This is a great reflection on the vibrancy of our Parish. The Search Committee is now carrying out the challenging—and enormously time-consuming—task of reviewing the candidates’ submissions and conducting initial phone interviews. This will be followed by in-person visits and interviews, including with the Vestry and the Bishop. I know that this process is one that is a source of both hope and anxiety in our Parish family. To borrow a line from the Archangel Gabriel: Fear Not! We are blessed with a strong pool of candidates and a committed and prayerful Search Committee that is working together guided by the Spirit. Still, much discernment remains before the process concludes. Please continue to keep the Search Committee and all of the applicants in your prayers. Please also remember that the Committee must keep the names of the applicants and the contents of its deliberations confidential at this stage, and be understanding and respectful of the fact that they cannot discuss their work outside of the Committee.

We are pleased to report that the renovation of the Rectory proceeds apace. This project has so far been a remarkable success in terms of both adherence to budget and timely progress. We all owe Tom and Carolyn McDermott, and the members of the Property Committee, enormous thanks for all of the professional skill and personal devotion they have brought to this project. At present we expect the project to be completed in January.

We are also looking forward to the celebration of the Advent’s 175th Anniversary on this coming Advent Sunday, December 1, 2019. On that day, Bishop Gates will conduct a Visitation of the Parish, preaching and celebrating at the 9:00 and 11:15 Masses. He will also meet with the Vestry and attend festive Coffee Hours (with Advent Wreath-making too!). There are many special events planned to commemorate Advent 175, so please take a look at the calendar and plan to participate. In particular note that this year’s Anglo-Catholic Roots conference will take place on December 5th and 6th. Speakers include the Rev’d Andrew McGowan, Dean of Yale’s Berkeley School of Divinity, and the Rev’d Prof. Sarah Coakley, Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity Emerita at the University of Cambridge. Prof. Coakley will also be our guest preacher for the Second Sunday of Advent.

In connection with this important anniversary of our Parish’s founding, I ask that you each consider a special contribution to support the “Wish List” of Advent 175 gifts, which includes both restoration projects for historical items as well as proposals for new items. The Vestry has collectively committed $3000 to supporting the restoration of Volume One of the Parish Archives. This and other gifts will show our collective commitment to protecting the Advent’s history and providing for its future. You are welcome to contribute any amount you wish, whether or not toward one of the specific projects on the “Wish List.” The wish list can be found on the church website or in a brochure atop the Advent 175 display case outside the office.

We will continue to provide updates to the Parish on the Search and the work of the Wardens and Vestry in the months ahead. Meanwhile, we look forward to seeing everyone at Church.

Faithfully yours,

Thomas Brown & Paul J. Roberts,
Wardens


FROM THE ADVENT ARCHIVES


Little-known facts, amusing anecdotes, and miscellaneous wisdom, in honor of the 175th anniversary of this parish.

William Croswell (1844-1851)

The first rector of the Church of the Advent, William Croswell (1804-1851), previously served as Minister of Christ Church (Old North). When he arrived in Boston in 1829, he was not yet 25 years old, still in Deacon’s orders, unmarried. He is described as “poet, scholar, and keen observer of life and things about him, …modest and untiring as a priest and pastor, characterized by Phillips Brooks as ‘a man of most attractive character and beautiful purity of life … one of the most interesting men who have ever filled Episcopal pulpits in Boston.’”(Mary Kent Davey Babcock, “William Croswell and Christ Church Boston,” Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Vol. 2, No. 1 (March 1933).*

After 11 years at Christ Church, Croswell preached his farewell sermon on July 5, 1840; he had accepted a position at St Peter’s in Auburn, New York. Before leaving Boston, however, he married Miss Amanda Mary Tarbell (1808-1880), who had been organist at Christ Church; the officiant was Alexander Viets Griswold, Fifth Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States and Bishop of the Eastern Diocese, which included all of New England with the exception of Connecticut. Within four years, they would return to Boston.

Croswell was a prolific author; during his lifetime, he composed nearly 35 sonnets and seventy poems. We present today two that are especially appropriate: “Michael” and an excerpt from “Baptism.”

*Also from Babcock:…another biographer with equal truthfulness wrote, “Croswell’s poetry was the crowning expression of a consecrated life,” and one critic likened his poems to “beautiful carvings, the string courses, corbels, pendants, brackets, niches and tabernacle work of a Christian cathedral, adorning and strengthening the solid fabric, while placing the ornamental in due subordination to the useful.”


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
September 30 – October 6, 2019

Monday, September 30
Jerome

Tuesday, October 1
Remigius
6:00 pm: Stewardship Committee
6:00 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, October 2
10:00 am: Bible Study
11:00 am: Funeral of June Knowles
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bellringers

Thursday, October 3
7:00 pm: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Friday, October 4
Francis of Assisi
11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, October 5
10:00 am: Flower Guild

Sunday, October 6
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Sung Mass
10:15 am: Church School / Entr’acte
11:15 am: Solemn Mass
3:00 pm: Blessing of the Animals

This Week at the Advent, September 22-28, 2019

Welcome to the Church of the Advent! If you are new to the area, visiting, or seeking a church home, we are glad you’re here and hope to have a chance to greet you in person. Please join us downstairs following the service for a coffee hour.

Child care is offered during the 9 am and 11:15 am services; an usher can guide you to the nursery.

Welcome cards are located in each pew; please fill one out so we can keep in touch.


The flowers at the High Altar are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Joseph Hudak.


TODAY!


9:00 Coffee Hour: Hosts this morning are Angie Corbett and Maggie Dunbar. If you would like to sign up to host coffee hour, please contact Barbara Boles by phone, 617-501-7572, or email, bbolesster@gmail.com, if you’re interested or have questions.

11:15 Coffee Hour: Hosting this morning are Maggie Eggert & Nick Westberg, Olivia James, and Daniel Orsen. We are always in need of more volunteers; to view the schedule of available dates and select a date to co-host, please go to http://theadventboston.org/1115-coffee-hour-signup/. If you have any questions, please contact Frederick Ou (frederick.ou@gmail.com), Roxy Hanson (roxenewu@yahoo.com) or Betsy James (ejames4@nc.rr.com).


Advent 175!

Today we launch the celebration of the parish’s 175th birthday. Excitement is building for the momentous occasion. In addition to the new bulletin cover (which will be used for the duration of our celebration), we will be introducing the events at both coffee hours, with treats, displays of treasures, bespoke merchandise, and more. Not able to make it to either coffee hour? Deacon Daphne can answer questions and provide additional information.


NEXT SUNDAY!


On September 29, the Advent celebrates the Feast of St. Michael & All Angels and welcomes the Rev’d Canon Dr. Victor Austin, who will preach at the 9:00 and 11:15 Masses. Fr Austin is Canon Theologian-in-Residence for the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas and formerly served in a similar position at St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City where he also taught at General Theological Seminary. He is also the author of several books focusing on Christian ethics and on the intersection of theology and everyday life, including the memoir Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest’s Wife, and the God Who Gives and Takes Away.


Entr’acte Series: Christ and Culture Today. September 29–October 20.

This fall Frs. Welch and Hanson, along with Advent parishioner and PhD candidate in philosophy Nicholas Westberg, will discuss and debate Richard Niebuhr’s classic work, Christ and Culture, as well as the issues that the text still raises for us today. Christ and Culture is a clear, careful, and even-handed study of the ways Christians have related to the culture around them, ranging from total rejection to uncritical acceptance and various perspectives in between. Frs. Welch and Hanson and Mr. Westberg will present Neibuhr’s taxonomy and update his findings for our current situation in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.

Our history as American Episcopalians has been shaped by the most extreme ends of the Christ and culture spectrum, all the way from Episcopalian pacifists who were imprisoned for not taking up arms, to the more familiar (and numerous!) “Country Club Episcopalians” who, fairly or unfairly, have been judged for making a comfortable accommodation to their surrounding culture. It is important to understand these polarities as the culture war still rages around us and to imagine the distinctive contribution we can make as Anglo-Catholics, who interpret the question of Christ and culture as a subset of faith’s relationship to reason, and can therefore chart a middle course. For there is certainly truth and goodness found in human culture, but there is also distinct truth and goodness revealed to us in Jesus and the Scriptures that witness to him. And there is also the powerful and attractive alternative view articulated by Anglican theologian Frederick Denison Maurice of how Christ does not just reject or accept culture but transforms it in his own image.

These Entr’acte presentations are intended to be a conversation between the three leaders but with ample opportunities for others to join in. It should be fun and illuminating, so please join us. Copies of Christ and Culture are available in the Advent Bookstore; it is not required reading for these sessions, but some might find it helpful.


COMING UP


In honor of St. Francis: October 4 is the day the Church has set to honor and give thanks for the life and witness of Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the Order of Saint Francis, known as a lover of God’s Creation and one of our most well-known and popular saints. So in keeping with the celebration of his life and witness, we will host our annual Blessing of Animals on the Sunday following Saint Francis Day, October 6 at 3:00 pm in the Church’s chancel.

Earlier that Sunday the children will be able to enjoy a petting zoo in the garden off Moseley Hall beginning after the 9:00 am Mass. Just as Saint Francis gave thanks for all God’s creatures and truly appreciated how creation returns thanksgiving to God, so we will have the opportunity to appreciate and enjoy many of God’s creatures.


Musical notes for today’s 11:15 Mass:

Sir Hubert Parry’s beloved “I was glad” was written for the coronation of King Edward VII and revised in 1911 for that of King George V, when the familiar introduction was added. Settings of Psalm 122 for earlier coronations were composed by Henry Purcell and William Boyce, among others. Parry’s setting employs antiphonal choir effects and fanfares. Apart from the imperial splendor of the music, Parry’s chief innovation is the incorporation in the central section of the acclamations “Vivat Rex…”  or “Vivat Regina …” (“Long live King/Queen …”) with which the King’s or Queen’s Scholars of Westminster School have traditionally greeted the entrance of the monarch. This section, which has to be rewritten every time a new monarch is crowned — because the Sovereign is mentioned by name — is generally omitted when the anthem is performed on other occasions. However, this morning, there is a surprise in store.

The Welsh-born Thomas Tomkins spent most of his professional life as Master of Music at Worcester Cathedral, where he supervised the construction of a fine new organ by Thomas Dallam, the preeminent builder of his day. Tomkins had a magnificent career as composer, choir-trainer and organist, yet the last fourteen years of his life were beset with a string of tragedies. Tomkins’ devoted wife Alice died in 1642, the year civil war broke out. Worcester was one of the first casualties: the cathedral was desecrated, and Tomkins’ organ badly damaged by the Parliamentarians. The following year Tomkins’ house near the cathedral suffered a direct hit by cannon shot, making it uninhabitable for a long period, and destroying most of his household goods and probably a number of his musical manuscripts. With the choir disbanded and the cathedral closed, Tomkins turned to composition. His second wife Martha died around 1653, and deprived of his living, Tomkins, now 81, was in serious financial difficulties. Tomkins died in 1656 at the age of 84. His beautiful setting of verses from Psalm 26, “O Lord, I have loved the habitation,” is particularly poignant in light of the end of his life in his beloved Worcester.


ODDS & ENDS


The flowers that adorn the Church are funded entirely by donations from members and friends of the Parish. There are openings for flower memorials or thanksgivings on Sundays, October 13 and November 17. If you are interested, please contact the parish administrator (office@theadventboston.org).


David Russo’s exhibit on John H. Sturgis has been enhanced by the new donation of a metal sign, originally located in the Bowdoin Street Church, reading “Contributions for building the Church of the Advent” — which dates it to the mid-1870s. The sign was rescued from the Bowdoin Street boiler room and safeguarded by Bowdoin Street archivist Carole-Jean Smith. This is a wonderful treasure from our earliest days; be sure to take a look.


FROM THE ADVENT ARCHIVES


Little-known facts, amusing anecdotes, and miscellaneous wisdom, in honor of the 175th anniversary of this parish.

 

Throughout his 27-year rectorate, William Harman van Allen repeatedly emphasized both the American and the Catholic nature of the Church of the Advent, all the while connecting the Advent’s unique personality with the Book of Common Prayer.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
September 23-29, 2019

Monday, September 23

Tuesday, September 24
6:00 pm: Community Supper
7:00 pm: Bellringers

Wednesday, September 25
Sergius of Moscow
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bellringers

Thursday, September 26
Lancelot Andrewes
7:00 pm: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Friday, September 27
11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, September 28
9:30 am: Vestry Meeting & Retreat (All Saints, Ashmont)
10:00 am: Flower Guild

Sunday, September 29
Michaelmas
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Procession & Sung Mass
10:15 am: Church School / Entr’acte
11:15 am: Procession, Holy Baptism & Solemn Mass

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Daphne B. Noyes at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, September 15, 2019, the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The most profound spiritual truths are often best described in the simplest terms —something Jesus was very good at. He has a way with words. Losing or being lost, finding or being found — these common experiences resonate and touch on the deep human hunger for connection.

In my chaplaincy days, I often encountered “Betty,” a patient in her late 50s who could best be described as a lost soul. She had been raised in immense privilege, surrounded by material comfort. But she struggled, even as a young child, feeling lost, unloved. The complexities of her family life combined with her own unmanageable deep-seated sorrow and anger led to her regular admissions to the hospital, where skilled clinicians would attempt to help her sort things out, learn to value her life, and find healthy ways to engage with others.

On our visits, she would pour out her soul: all the ways she had been abandoned, or wronged, or betrayed, or disappointed, or mistreated, or misunderstood. It was pretty grim. Usually I could find a way to listen empathetically, although it was challenging. But one time — perhaps it was the end of the day, perhaps I was tired — I had reached my limit on hearing her seemingly endless litany of misfortune. I had reached some internal tipping point and for whatever reason wasn’t able to detach myself from her pain in the way I needed to, to be an effective support to her. Something had to change.

“Betty,” I asked. “What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you?”

Oh, she said. It’s when I was confirmed — and here she named the church where this took place (and this was probably at least four decades earlier), and the bishop who officiated. Even the few phrases she used to talk about the event seemed to brighten her eyes, and lift her voice from its usual sad monotone.

I don’t know exactly what response I was expecting when I asked the question, but her answer did surprise me.

What was it about being confirmed, I asked, that made it such a good experience?

She paused — then said, Well, I really felt that I was part of something larger than myself.

Betty had been trapped inside herself, unable to escape. But on that day, she not only saw but walked through an opening to something larger, brighter, more loving, more open, than she had ever experienced before. And just as her own heart was lifted, I suspect there was rejoicing in heaven.

St Augustine of Hippo understood and articulated the “deep-calling-to-deep” nature of the relationship between mortals and God, between God and mortals. “You made us for yourself,” he wrote, “and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

The timeless themes of being lost, being found, are tied together with another timeless theme: that of desire. Think of God’s question to Adam, early on in the Garden; “Where are you?” Now we can be pretty sure that God knew exactly where Adam and Eve were, and exactly what had gone down with the snake and the tree and the fruit — but God gave Adam the chance to answer for himself. God’s desire was for Adam to speak, to recognize where he was, who he was, and what he had done. It’s a fairly simple transaction, and one whose outcome we know well.

Then there’s Moses, engaging in complex negotiations with God on more than one occasion. “Turn from thy fierce wrath and repent of this evil against thy people.” Whoa. God should repent?! But in the end mercy prevails. And if God can repent, certainly each one of us can learn to repent.

Then there’s the shepherd and the lost sheep; the woman and the lost silver coin. Sheep (as far as we know) don’t repent, nor do coins. But it’s not about them, it’s about God. “God’s mercy breaks through all human restrictions of how God should act toward sinners. God’s mercy, indeed, is as foolish as a shepherd who abandons 99 sheep to save one, as a woman who turns her house upside down to retrieve a paltry sum.”

God searches for us abundantly, loves us abundantly, forgives us abundantly, without expectation. The forgiveness is already and only when we realize this, then we repent, then our hearts and lives change.

Scratch the surface of this divine desire, of deep-calling-to-deep, and what do you find? Love. To quote that esteemed theologian, Woody Guthrie: “The books of the holy bible never say but one time just exactly what God is, and in those three little words it pours out a hundred million college educations and says, God Is Love.”

Paul knows this when he confesses to Timothy, “I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

If you are lost, welcome! God’s been looking for you. If you are a sinner, welcome! Receive God’s mercy. If you labor and are heavy laden, welcome! God will refresh you. If your soul is hungry, welcome! God has prepared a meal for you. As Paul himself would later say to his fellow shipwrecked sailors, “I beg you to take some food, for this is the beginning of your rescue.”

Amen.

This Week at the Advent, September 15-21, 2019

Welcome to the Church of the Advent! If you are new to the area, visiting, or seeking a church home, we are glad you’re here and hope to have a chance to greet you in person. Please join us downstairs following the service for a coffee hour.

Child care is offered during the 9 am and 11:15 am services; an usher can guide you to the nursery.

Welcome cards are located in each pew; please fill one out so we can keep in touch.


The flowers at the High Altar are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Louise Olney Baker.


TODAY!


9:00 Coffee Hour: The hosts this morning are Carolyn & Tom McDermott and Melissa Fox. If you would like to sign up to host coffee hour, please contact Barbara Boles by phone, 617-501-7572, or email, bbolesster@gmail.com, if you’re interested or have questions.

11:15 Coffee Hour: Hosting this morning are Maria Denslow; Kara Rodgers Marshall & Philip Marshall; and Philip Sawyer. We are always in need of more volunteers; to view the schedule of available dates and select a date to co-host, please go to http://theadventboston.org/1115-coffee-hour-signup/. If you have any questions, please contact Frederick Ou (frederick.ou@gmail.com), Roxy Hanson (roxenewu@yahoo.com) or Betsy James (ejames4@nc.rr.com).


Today we welcome The Rt. Rev. Dr. Carol J. Gallagher, who, in addition to meeting with the Search Committee, will attend the 9 and 11:15 Masses and coffee hours.

Dr. Gallagher is the regional canon for the Central Region (the 56 congregations, as well as other church-related institutions, in the Boston Harbor, Alewife, Charles River and Neponset River deaneries) of the Diocese of Massachusetts. Before coming to Massachusetts, she served as assistant bishop in the Dioceses of Montana, North Dakota, Newark, and Southern Virginia. She has also served as the bishop missioner to the Bishops’ Native Collaborative, a consortium that addresses the educational and cultural needs of Native clergy and lay leaders. Before her consecration as bishop, she served parishes in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. She is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation. She received the Louisville Institute Award in 2009 and was an Episcopal Divinity School Proctor Fellow. She has served on numerous church and civic committees and boards, including the Episcopal Church Council on Indian Ministries, the Committee on the Status of Women, and the United Way of America National Board.


Advent Tour: This morning our Verger, Raymond Porter, will give a tour of the church building following the 11:15 Mass. Ours is a fascinating, complicated, and historic building; Mr. Porter will provide a 10–15 minute overview of its many facets. Meet him in the Baptistry immediately following the Postlude.


THIS WEEK


Film Watch Party Wednesday, September 18, 6:30 pm at the Cathedral of St. Paul (138 Tremont St, Boston). Come view “The Last Dream,” a short documentary about families living under the threat of deportation, and learn more about how to defend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and work for permanent residency for TPS holders. Light snacks will be served. Co-sponsored by Episcopal City Mission. For more information, visit the Diocesan website: https://www.diomass.org/event/last-dream-film-screening.


NEXT SUNDAY!


Advent 175: As of September 15, we are just 76 days away from the parish’s 175th birthday. Excitement is building for the celebration of this momentous occasion. Preparation for the festivities will be officially launched next Sunday, September 22, at both coffee hours, with treats, displays of treasures, bespoke merchandise, and more. Not able to make it to either coffee hour? Deacon Daphne can answer questions and provide additional information.


COMING UP


Entr’acte Series: Christ and Culture Today. September 29–October 20.

This fall Frs. Welch and Hanson, along with Advent parishioner and PhD candidate in philosophy Nicholas Westberg, will discuss and debate Richard Niebuhr’s classic work, Christ and Culture, as well as the issues that the text still raises for us today. Christ and Culture is a clear, careful, and even-handed study of the ways Christians have related to the culture around them, ranging from total rejection to uncritical acceptance and various perspectives in between. Frs. Welch and Hanson and Mr. Westberg will present Neibuhr’s taxonomy and update his findings for our current situation in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.

Our history as American Episcopalians has been shaped by the most extreme ends of the Christ and culture spectrum, all the way from Episcopalian pacifists who were imprisoned for not taking up arms, to the more familiar (and numerous!) “Country Club Episcopalians” who, fairly or unfairly, have been judged for making a comfortable accommodation to their surrounding culture. It is important to understand these polarities as the culture war still rages around us and to imagine the distinctive contribution we can make as Anglo-Catholics, who interpret the question of Christ and culture as a subset of faith’s relationship to reason, and can therefore chart a middle course. For there is certainly truth and goodness found in human culture, but there is also distinct truth and goodness revealed to us in Jesus and the Scriptures that witness to him. And there is also the powerful and attractive alternative view articulated by Anglican theologian Frederick Denison Maurice of how Christ does not just reject or accept culture but transforms it in his own image.

These Entr’acte presentations are intended to be a conversation between the three leaders but with ample opportunities for others to join in. It should be fun and illuminating, so please join us.


In honor of St. Francis: October 4 is the day the Church has set to honor and give thanks for the life and witness of Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the Order of Saint Francis, known as a lover of God’s Creation and one of our most well-known and popular saints. So in keeping with the celebration of his life and witness, we will host our annual Blessing of Animals on the Sunday following Saint Francis Day, October 6 at 3:00 pm in the Church’s chancel.

Earlier that Sunday the children will be able to enjoy a petting zoo in the garden off Moseley Hall beginning after the 9:00 am Mass. Just as Saint Francis gave thanks for all God’s creatures and truly appreciated how creation returns thanksgiving to God, so we will have the opportunity to appreciate and enjoy many of God’s creatures. Saint Francis’s “Canticle of the Sun” reflects his joy and faith: Most High, omnipotent, good Lord, To Thee be ceaseless praise outpoured, And blessing without measure. Let creatures all give thanks to Thee and serve in great humility.


Evensong & Benediction will resume its regular “third Sunday” schedule next month. Please join us on October 20 at 4:30 pm for an organ recital, followed by Evensong and Benediction at 5:00. A light supper and talk follows the service.


ODDS & ENDS


Common Cathedral: Thank you to the members and youth members of our congregation who joined us last Sunday in worshipping in communion with the members of Common Cathedral. Thank you also to those who worked to provide and serve over 120 bag lunches. (A few of you witnessed the buzz of activity during the 9:00 coffee hour.) There was nothing left! Common Cathedral is an open community church that meets weekly on the Boston Common. The ministers serve a range of congregants who are homeless or semi-homeless in order to provide them an opportunity to explore and connect with their faith and with one another. Other programs they provide throughout the week include Bible study, art therapy, and open coffee hour sessions. Churches and congregations from near and far take turns hosting their Sunday “coffee hour” lunches, and supporting the ministers during their service. The Advent hosts 3-4 times a year. All members are invited to join in this important outreach mission. The next Advent opportunity is coming up in early December and will be announced in the bulletin a few weeks before. Hosting takes place following the 9:00 am service and runs until 2:30 pm.


David Russo’s exhibit on John H. Sturgis has been enhanced by the new donation of a metal sign, originally located in the Bowdoin Street Church, reading “Contributions for building the Church of the Advent” — which dates it to the mid-1870s. The sign was rescued from the Bowdoin Street boiler room and safeguarded by Bowdoin Street archivist Carole-Jean Smith. This is a wonderful treasure from our earliest days; be sure to take a look.


FROM THE ADVENT ARCHIVES


Little-known facts, amusing anecdotes, and miscellaneous wisdom, in honor of the 175th anniversary of this parish.

John Hubbard Sturgis (1834-1888) is remembered as the architect of our church building. But his memory lives on in more than the structure and its shape. Sturgis himself gave a window in the east end of the Lady Chapel in memory of his young daughter, Julia Overing Sturgis (1859-1861). He also designed the lower portion of the reredos at the High Altar (1883). In 1891, his son-in-law, Francis W. Hunnewell (1838-1917), donated funds for the West Porch and Gallery in Sturgis’s memory. His widow, Frances Anne (Codman) Sturgis (1847-1910), honored him with three lancets in the South Transept (1888). These windows portray the twelve Apostles, each shown with his symbol; they carry the words of the Creed on scrolls. She also made a gift of the Nativity/Epiphany window in the West End of the North Aisle in memory of their daughter, Gertrude Gouverneur (Sturgis) Hunnewell (1862-1890), wife of Francis Hunnewell. They lived at 203 Beacon Street (278 Clarendon), a brownstone designed for Hunnewell by Sturgis’s partner Charles Brigham and completed in 1870. Gertrude was just 28 years old when she died of “premature labor,” her system compromised by Bright’s disease.

The “Misses Sturgis,” that is, the daughters of John and Frances – Frances Anne Codman Sturgis, Mabel Russell Sturgis, Alice Maud Russell Sturgis, and Evelyn Russell Sturgis — made two musically oriented gifts in 1912: The organ console, in memory of their brother, Charles Russell Sturgis (1871-1909), who died of a blood infection, and the choir stalls, in memory of their parents. From Betty Hughes Morris’s 1995 history: “The choir stalls were designed by Charles Coveney, a splendid artist and architect and a member of the Advent Corporation…. The design of the choir stalls illustrates ‘Creation Blessing the Ever Blessed Trinity,’ and features verses from the canticle Benedicite, omnia opera Domini, ‘Oh, all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord’” (see pages 47-48 in the Book of Common Prayer for the text of the canticle). When the opportunity arises, take a look at the endearing selection of flora and fauna that grace the choir stalls.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
September 16-21, 2019

Monday, September 16
Ninian of Galloway
5:15 pm: Girl Scouts

Tuesday, September 17
Hildegard of Bingen
6:00 pm: Community Supper
7:00 pm: Bellringers

Wednesday, September 18
Edward Bouverie Pusey
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bellringers

Thursday, September 19
Theodore of Tarsus
5:15 pm: Property Committee

Friday, September 20
John Coleridge Patteson & Companions
11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, September 21
St Matthew
10:00 am: Flower Guild

Sunday, September 22
The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Sung Mass
10:15 am: Church School
11:15 am: Solemn Mass

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Jay C. James at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, September 8, 2019, the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

From the Letter of Saint Paul to Philemon, “Refresh my heart in Christ.” 

To love Christ means being His disciple and that means every aspect of life will be given to Him and made new.  The joy of discipleship. 

The Gospel lessons throughout the summer introduced us to a Jesus who was a teacher, a healer, and a man who seemed to be a purveyor of love and peace.  What happened to Him?   All of a sudden, in this morning’s Gospel lesson, it seems Jesus has become a hate-monger.  Didn’t we just hear, If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple?  It’s a little bit of a jolt.  After all, we have heard the Gospel lessons through these summer months.  In those passages the Bible shows us a Jesus is strong and direct, but not showing us how to hate.  The passages through June, July, and August have included parables of how to love our neighbors, as in the Good Samaritan.  In others, Jesus taught us how to pray the Our Father.  He revealed that our treasure is truly in heaven and not here. He explained that humility is really the way to a life with Him in His Kingdom.  To have gone from these lessons to a lesson on whom to hate is jarring.  He even teaches us to include ourselves in the list of those to hate.  …and even his own life, is included in the list of those who are near and dear to us. 

Do not fret. We Christians have not tied ourselves to a teacher and founder of our Faith who wants us to reject those we love in order to follow Him.  In closer examination of the way “hate” is used in the passage, we find that the Greek word “hate” translates is “miseo”.  That word for hate is used in three ways in the New Testament.  It can mean the kind of awful hate that is an unjustified feeling of utter disgust and rejection of a thing or a person.  In the case of today’s passage on discipleship, it means more of a preference for one thing or person over another.  Jesus will use “hate” in the same way in just a couple of chapters later.  This other example of Jesus using “hate” to show preference is when He teaches that we cannot serve two masters like God and mammon.   No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.   

The truth about today’s Gospel passage is how imperative it is to make the choice of following Him.  Included in making that choice is weighing the cost of being His disciple.  As if to say, “Please love me enough to follow me and in choosing to follow me, carefully weigh what it will take to follow me.  Do you love your father, your mother, your wife and children, or brothers or sisters?  If you know how much you love them, then it is to that degree and more that you ought to love me.  We are to be bound to Him above all others.  It is that kind of discipleship Jesus desires.  He desires this out of love for us because He knows that joy, peace and freedom will be the result.  The end of loving Jesus and following Him as a disciple, giving ourselves over to Him completely, is complete freedom. 

It does not sound possible that discipline can be equated with love, peace, joy and freedom. Discipline, when we hear it, conjures up thoughts of unpleasantness, punishment, bearing a burden, drudgery.  Jesus tells the great multitudes accompanying him, whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.  He instructs the crowd to weigh carefully the cost before deciding to follow Him.  Jesus uses the parables of the cost of the tower and the king entering into battle to emphasize the importance of the deep and heart-wrenching decision it may take to follow Him.  The cost is the bearing the Cross.  At the same time this kind of discipleship is true love, joy, peace, and freedom and those are available even now.

Love is ultimately the root of all sacrifice.  It’s true in being a disciple of Jesus.  We choose to love Him and follow Him.  It was true for the nation of Israel.  God loves Israel and asks Israel to love Him back by following His Commandments.  I think that’s why we have the example from The Book of Deuteronomy in our lections for today.  In this passage, toward the end of Moses’ life, he reminds Israel that God loves them so much that, He showed them all the Commandments.  All of Israel is reminded that when they cannot give themselves over to the Commandments they are still loved so much that they can repent and come back under the Commandments. God will not only continue to love them, He will forgive them and they will prosper in the land that He gave them.  Coming under God’s love through obeying His Commandments is choosing life, choosing goodness.  Israel is free to grow and prosper by coming under God. 

Israel knew this from the first time Moses revealed the Commandments to them.  Go back and read the Commandments from the first time they were given to Israel in Exodus 20. Commandment Five which, appropriately enough for our purposes today, also addresses our nearest relations of mother and father, does not just enjoin us to honor our father and our mother.  If you read the whole of the Commandment, it’s Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.  Their lives will be “long in the land”.  This implication is that a long life is a blessed life, a flourishing life, a good life.  Submitting to a given law, that was given out of love and then obeyed out of love, will result in joy, fulfillment, and prosperity.   Moses is repeating this practice of the love of God by obeying His Commandments.  He reminds the people of Israel this is the way of God for them and it is ultimately the way of love. 

This principle of giving oneself over to a law in obedience and discipline that leads to love, harmony, peace and freedom can be recognized even in our daily lives. A simple example of this is punctuality.  Showing up on time for something.  As part of training in pastoral care beginning back in the 1960’s, it was necessary for many seminarians and divinity school students to be trained to visit in a prison, hospital, or nursing home.  The training was usually under the guidance of a counselor trained in the Jungian method of psychoanalysis.   The method required that each student take a turn having his or her responses in pastoral situations analyzed.  This would enable better responses to those needing pastoral care.  Each student would each take a turn being dissected psychologically, as painful as that was, to explain why we did what we did and said what we said.  

One of the seminarians in my group had to take his turn being grilled by the Jungian analyst, himself a Congregationalist minister.  The question the seminarian had to address was why he was perpetually late.  He would always be a few minutes late in visiting hospital rooms, for chapel services, for these group sessions, and would hand in papers a few days late. Why is that and what is the solution?  It was a productive session, I think.  The seminarian revealed how he felt about being late and it was explained to him how everyone else felt about his tardiness.  The seminarian recognized what a burden he was bringing on himself and the others around him by his tardiness.  Without going into the deeper psychological reasons of why some persons are perpetually late, we found that the solution is really simple.  Show up on time.  When that happens there is a freedom from the burden of all the negative results of tardiness.  Taking on, or giving himself over to the limits of time and a schedule, is really a means, for this particular seminarian, to joy, peace, and harmony. It generates peace with his other group members. It’s a sign of caring and concern for those with whom he’s meeting.  He will free himself from the burden of tardiness.  Simplistic?  Yes.  True? Yes. 

Discipleship, and the discipline it requires, is the Christian path of love, freedom, and indeed new life even in this fallen and imperfect world.  Discipleship, or following and learning from Jesus, is more than an intellectual exercise or following some warm feelings about loving Jesus our Brother.  It is more than attempting to copy some of Jesus’ behavior.  True discipleship, we find out today, has sacrificial love at its core.  True discipleship will have to involve giving of oneself; one’s whole self.  As Jesus says, If any one comes to me and does not hate…even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  True discipleship is a matter of learning, but not learning only as students in an academic setting.  This is learning that is life changing.

When one is a student in the form of a disciple then one has given oneself completely to a discipline.  Remember when subjects like music, or medicine, or mathematics, or logic and rhetoric were called disciplines?  This means they were not simply subjects that you injected into your brain through study and memorization.  They were considered ways of life and if you wanted to learn that way of life you would have to give your life to it.  You gave yourself over to the discipline of music.  You made a life of the study and practice of medicine.  Your discipleship was actually being a student of the discipline.  You gave away the other parts of your life.  That is the sacrifice.  You sacrificed your life for the good of taking on the discipline.  A disciple of Christ does the same.  He or she gives up the old life and takes on being such a good student of Jesus that the likeness of Christ comes through the new life.  

We can know the benefits of a life following Jesus now.  To love Jesus enough to give ourselves over to Him will mean bearing not the Cross, but bearing a number of crosses.  It is not easy to be a Christian sometimes.  We know that from Jesus’ parables today.  In giving ourselves to Him, though, we can know what real love is. We can know the joy of sharing His life with others. We can be released and freed by asking for His forgiveness from the sins that hinder us even now.  That is the joy of taking the steps to be one more of His disciples. 

What better way to walk through this world than as a disciple of Christ.  This new life in Christ, born out of His love for us and our love for Him, makes all things new.  Bearing our crosses and following Him as disciples becomes “a privilege and a joy”.  According to our meditations on The Stations of the Cross in Lent, that’s what Simon of Cyrene came to know as he bore the Cross for Jesus on the way to Mount Calvary.  For him it was “a privilege and a joy”.  Yes, even in the midst and among the unpleasant, nasty, wicked, and sinful parts dealt to us.  Even the awful parts of our lives visited on us by chafing under the consequences of our own sins, we can know the joy of having our lives buried with Christ.

A life buried with Christ as His disciple will include the freedom of forgiveness.  The grace of forgiveness can be known to us in two ways.  We can confess our sins to God, to each other, to our priests in the confessional.  The freedom from the burden of those sins is lifted.  Also, we can take on the difficult spiritual work of forgiving others.  If you have ever truly forgiven another who has sinned against you, you will know the good will and even happiness that grace of forgiveness provides.

If our lives are buried with Christ then they are not buried unto death and an awful end.  Our lives are brought to a new beginning.  They are remade so we can now know the ease and relief of forgiveness.  The grace of forgiveness that is available to us now.  We can know the thanksgiving that results from healing and healing in every possible way; mind, body, and Spirit.  What a sign of love that God made us in such a way to be healed.  We can know how pleasing it is to reach out in the Name of Christ and help those who need a hand because their lives are in a difficult period.  We do not have to wait to know and enjoy this rebirth and refreshment.  Every aspect of our lives in this world as a disciple is made new and refreshed by love.  

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.