Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Dr. Andrew McGowan at the Church of the Advent, Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dr. McGowan is the Dean and President of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University.
This sermon was preached at the Solemn Mass concluding the conference, “Anglo-Catholicism: Uncovering Roots,” held at the Church of the Advent, November 15 – 16, 2017.

The Eucharist is a sacrifice. See, I said it. I was never really expecting to get a job in the Diocese of Sydney anyway! 
 
This confession, that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, may be as succinct a summary as any of the gift and challenge of the Catholic movement to the Anglican Communion. There are still some places where the defenders of reform will rise to take up theological arms against such a confession; elsewhere however we might fear that it is as much shrugged at, as bristled at. This may be the challenge for Anglican Catholicism as for Christianity now, that we are less the cause of outrage as an object of curiosity. It is time, perhaps, to be a bit more outrageous.
 
Why is or was sacrifice such a problem? This jubilee year of the Reformation offers or requires some account of the issue. The reformers began pastorally with the abuse of indulgences and the endowing Masses as bargaining-chips for souls in purgatory. Abuse never reveals or exhausts the true meaning of any practice or doctrine, however. As often, the Reformers accurately pointed to weeds growing in the ecclesial garden, but tugged out the wheat instead or as well; for in this regard as in others, what the reformed Church was left with often was not a restored image of its primitive self but a more stilted version of the Medieval one. The results were long and many; Bishop Manton Eastburn of this diocese doggedly refused pastoral engagement with this parish through the 1840s and 50s because the disposition of the holy table and its accouterments, including the cross still to be seen in All Saint’s Chapel here, smacked of it being an altar.
 
As recently as 1966 the Church of England abandoned the phrase “we offer this bread and this cup” in a proposed eucharistic prayer for what would become the Series 2 alternative services, after a flurry of debate. The issue here was not, or supposedly not, any Romish doctrine of repeated Calvaries, or the offering of transubstantiated elements, but simply the offering of the material things of bread and wine. To this protestant worthies objected, like their predecessors of the 16th century, because they believed in effect that eucharistic sacrifice could only be what the medieval Church had taught at its worst – a repetition of the Cross and a mitigation of the completeness of Christ’s work – and hence was theologically impertinent, or impossible. 
 
Theologically or exegetically however all the protestant objections to any actual sacrifice, whether from the 16th or the 20th Century, have started with a position like that of the Letter to the Hebrews, with its remarkable evocation of the work of Christ as a heavenly and supersessionist Day of Atonement ritual, that revealed the historical sacrifices for sin of the Israelite cultus to be at best partial, and at worst redundant. 
 
For the author of Hebrews however, sacrifice itself was not merely an intellectual trope, the expression of one idea like atonement, but a familiar if multivalent set of rituals with different forms and functions. Scripture itself witnesses to same effect, of various sacrifices, some bloody and others bloodless, some redundant and others vital. The sacrifices of the Mosaic Law were sometimes destroyed and sometimes shared, sometimes for sin and sometimes for thanksgiving, sometimes for the individual and sometimes for the nation.
 
The ancient readers of all these texts remembered the sacrifices of the Jerusalem Temple, and saw them or smelled their smoke around the ubiquitous pagan shrines of the ancient Mediterranean. Thus while Hebrews states that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (9:22), and that Christ had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins (10:12), the author – known only to God – and their first readers also knew both that not all sacrifice involved shedding of blood, and that not all sacrifice was for the forgiveness of sins.
 
So in the Letter to the Romans, Paul does, like Hebrews, read Jesus and the cross through the Day of Atonement ritual, likening Christ to the hilasterion, the mercy seat on the ark sprinkled with the blood of the victim; but Paul also, and more emphatically, likens Christ to the Passover Lamb in 1 Corinthians, offered not for expiation but as an anamnesis of God’s liberation of Israel from slavery to be celebrated again and again. Paul clearly countenances further sacrifices of at least some kind, calling the charitable gifts of the Philippians “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (4:18), and urging the Romans to offer themselves as a “living sacrifice” (12:1). 
 
All these sacrifices! It is tempting to imagine John Calvin grumbling, among the Church triumphant, that Paul clearly did not read Hebrews closely enough. Paul however understood sacrifice better than Calvin did.
 
So if the authors and readers of scripture, and the ancient Christian theologians on whose work catholic faith and order depend, knew that sacrifice was not one thing, but many things, our confession that the Eucharist is a sacrifice may also be the affirmation not merely of one idea from the array of sacrificial types and shadows, that of expiation or atonement by blood, but the invocation of many ideas. What they have in common was not expiation or violence, but gift.
 
Each of the sacrifices of the Hebrew Bible, and not just the Day of Atonement, is reflected for Christians in the work of Jesus Christ. And so too each takes renewed form in our Eucharist. Atonement involved sacrifice, not as sharing but as destruction and separation; in the Eucharist we commemorate our scapegoat offered and expelled and our sins forgiven. Passover involved the solidarity of the oppressed being liberated from bondage; in the Eucharist, with and by Christ our Passover we are brought from death to life. Peace or communion offerings were brought by Israel, in which the participants gave thanks to God with feasting for blessings received; in our Eucharist we too share in thanksgiving to God in Christ. What these sacrifices have in common is not violence but gift. 
 
The most ancient Christian teaching about the Eucharist does see it as sacrifice not, or not only, because of the real presence of Christ which ensues, but because it was gift, a ritual sharing with God and one another of bread and wine themselves, with thanksgiving – as that often spoken but rarely explored word “Eucharist” itself suggests – the “pure offering” of which Malachi had spoken.
 
 The Eucharist is a “spiritual” sacrifice of course; not however in the sense that it works merely in the intangible realm of the spirit, but insofar as it is an action that takes place in the realm of the Church driven by the power of the Spirit. The Eucharist is actually a material sacrifice, and a literal sacrifice of bread and wine. So we do not offer Christ in the Eucharist, we receive him in it. Our eagerness to affirm the real presence or to connect the Eucharist with Calvary may lead us to skip over this apparently prosaic but foundational affirmation.
 
But why offer bread and wine at all, or why share them, let alone carry them around in procession, or engage in heated controversy with other good people who do not yet share the faith of the ancient Church? These elements may seem too prosaic to be more than signs quickly to be by-passed on their way to other signifieds. I suggest however that this is far from being the case. First, the fact of sacrifice as the heart of our common life makes the claim that the heart of human sociability and of relationship with God is gift. More specifically these gifts connect us with that ancient Passover sacrifice, including that of Jesus’ Last Supper. They are signs of human life and labor, as well as of human need and liberation. Offering to God bread and wine, we bring things that earth has given and human hands have made, signs of our life itself and of our thanks for life; we offer humanity itself, labor itself, and creation itself. It has always been a mark of the catholic movement to take the world into which the Word became incarnate as fundamentally serious, not as something to flee from but to embrace; and the audacity of this unlikely and very material sacrifice is thus the audacity of the incarnation.
 
So Christ in the Eucharist, as otherwise, is for us all things and not only one: he is all priests and victims, he is Adam and Abel, he is Isaac and Moses, he is Jepthah’s daughter fatefully dancing, he is Ruth and Naomi gleaning in the barley fields of Passover. Christ in the Eucharist is the fulfillment of all types, and not merely the reduction to one. In this simplest of offerings we commune with all these, and with ancient saints and pilgrims who found in bread and wine not merely the creatures themselves offered, but the Word by whom bread and wine were made, by and through whom we were made, given back to us in the body and blood of Christ. In this material offering we proclaim and commune with a God who cares about hunger and labor and climate and us, and whose character is gift, even to the point that God may seek gratuitous gifts from us.
 
This confession, of eucharistic sacrifice, may still be the most audacious thing the Church can do, other than actually celebrating the Eucharist. We know that catholicism does not subsist in ritual but in the sacraments to which ritual is servant; our future relies I think not on ritual but in the fact of faithful celebration, and in the authenticity of our confession of a catholic faith.  In our action and in our confession let us continue to make the extraordinary claim that not one thing but many things, not one story but all stories, not one group but a countless throng, are caught up together in the praise of the angels, as our sacrifice, our gift, is taken by the Angel to the altar and throne of God. 

Collect for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This Week’s Announcements, November 19-25, 2017

The flowers at the High Altar are given to the greater Glory of God from a family thankful for many blessings.

The flowers at the Crossing are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of a long time member of the Parish, Esther B. Folts (June 28, 1933 – October 22, 2017).


If you are visiting or new  to the Advent, we hope that you will feel welcome and at home.  Please fill out a visitor’s/newcomer’s card so that we will have a record of your visit here and can keep in touch.


All persons baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit are invited to the Altar to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If you wish to receive a blessing, come to the Altar and cross your arms over your chest.


Childcare is provided for infants and toddlers during both the 9 am and 11:15 am Masses. 

9:00 am—Infant nursery is located on the first floor in the room beyond the Parish Office.  The Toddler nursery is located downstairs in Moseley Hall.

11:15 am—Infants and Toddlers are cared for on the first floor in the room beyond the office.

If you have questions or special needs we want to hear them.  Contact Meg Nelson 856-217-0847 or megwnelson@gmail.com.


TODAY!


9:00 Coffee Hour. Tony Pulsone & Darcy Montaldi and Melissa Fox host the Coffee Hour this morning.  The hosts next week will be Bette Boughton and Jonnet Holladay.  New coffee hour hosts are always needed; please contact Barbara Boles by email bbolesster@gmail.com, or telephone (617-501-7572) if you’re interested or have questions about what is entailed.

11:15 Coffee Hour. This week’s Coffee Hour is hosted by Brian Sirman and Thiago Rêgo.  We are in need of more volunteers to do the coffee hour. 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) or Kyle Pilares (kpilares.uk@gmail.com).


It’s that time again!  As we have done the past few years, guests at the Tuesday Evening Community Dinner will be given Gift Cards to Dunkin’ Donuts as their Christmas gift from the Advent.  This will allow them to go to a warm place and get hot coffee and something to eat during the cold months of winter.  If you wish to make a donation—and we hope you do—send it in marked “Donuts.”


This afternoon, the Advent will have a Solemn Evensong and Benediction at 5:00 pm.  It will be preceded by an organ recital by John Wessler at 4:30 pm. 

At a light supper to follow, long-time friend of the Advent the Rev’d Canon Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff will speak about his experiences and perceptions regarding Muslim/Christian Relations in the Middle East, as well as his perceptions of the same in the West, entitled “For Better or Worse:  Just what do we want in the Middle East?”  It was supposedly said of John Foster Dulles as Secretary of State, that there was no situation which a few words from him could not make worse.  This is not only a caution to those so rash as to speak upon the subject, but also reminds of the long history of missteps and travail in the region.  There is now also a sense of fatigue affecting many who feel that Western efforts to intervene in the Middle East have all too often ended badly.  But probably everyone can at least agree that things are not as they should be.  While the remedies advanced are myriad and fragmented in consequence of a deep diversity of goals among the key actors, it is interesting to ask what a good outcome in the Middle East would be.  What is the place of Christians within that future and of the current religious diversity in the region?  What can we learn by reflecting upon where it all went wrong in the past?

The talk will reflect on or two key turning points and the impact of personal experience in the region upon these large questions.  It is hoped that these reflections will provoke a lively debate given the difficulty of arriving at definitive answers.

Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff is Director General of the World Dialogue Council, which promotes better relations between the many worlds of Islam and the West.  He was formerly Dean of All Saints’ Cathedral in Cairo where he has also advised the Anglican Bishop of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa, the Most Rev’d Dr Mounir Anis, currently Primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East.   


THIS WEEK!


Bible Study takes place on Wednesdays at 10:00 am in the Library.  We are currently reading the Epistle to the Romans. 


This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day.  There will be a celebration of the Mass with hymns at 10:00 am. 

The Parish Office will be closed this Thursday, November 25, and Friday, November 26.  On Friday, Morning Prayer is at 9:00 am; Low Mass is at 12:15 pm; Evening Prayer is cancelled. 


COMING UP!


Sunday, December 3, is Advent Sunday, our Feast of Title & Dedication.  Simon Thomas Jacobs will play an Organ Recital at 4:30 pm, followed by a Service of Advent Lessons & Carols at 5:00 pm including music of Lehman, Ešenwalds, Poston, Palmer, Byrd, Palestrina, Willcocks and Filsell.  The evening concludes with a gala reception in Moseley Hall.


STEWARDSHIP 2018


Returns for the 2018 Canvass continue to come in.  Thanks to everyone who pledged so promptly! 

As of this past Thursday we have received 68 pledges, pledging a total of $196,314.  21 have increased their pledges by 19%, and there are two new pledges.  We have still to hear from 148 parishioners who pledged a total of $321,494 last year.

The Stewardship Committee thanks all who have made a pledge so far.  If you have not yet pledged, please do so soon.  

If you did not receive a 2018 stewardship packet in the mail, there are Stewardship brochures and pledge cards on the tables at the rear of the Church.  And you can pledge on line by going to the parish website www.theadventboston.org and clicking the “Pledge Online” button.


ODDS & ENDS


Vestry Nominations.  Please note that several members of the Vestry, a Treasurer and a Clerk will be elected at the Annual Meeting to be held on Sunday, January 28, 2018.  It is not too early to think about members of the Parish whom you think would serve effectively on the Vestry.  A Nominating Committee consisting of John Higgins, Jack Gurnon, Thatcher Gearhart, Kara Rodgers, Father Warren, and the Wardens, Tom Brown and Paul Roberts, is ready to receive the names of those whom you wish to nominate.  Please speak to them beforehand to make sure that they are willing to run.  


The Bach Project:  On Sunday, November 26 at 4 pm, a new ensemble consisting of instrumentalists and singers called The Bach Project will give its debut concert at the Parish of All Saints, Ashmont (209 Ashmont Street, Dorchester).  The Ashmont choir boys will be singing, as will several current and former members of the Advent Choir.  On the program will be the motet Lobet den Herrn, Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, and Cantata 47.  All are warmly invited.  More information can be found at:  www.ahchambermusic.org.  Tickets:  $25.  


Discount Vouchers for the Boston Common Garage are available for $9.00 each from Deacon Daphne or Nola Sheffer. You can find them between the 9:00 and 11:15 Masses at the Coffee Hour or Entr’acte. The vouchers can be used after 4:00 pm weekdays, and all day Saturday and Sunday. Questions? email: nsheffer@newview.org.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
November 20-26, 2017

Monday, November 20
Edmund of East Anglia

Tuesday, November 21
5:15 pm: Property Committee
6:00 pm: Community Supper
6:15 pm: Vestry

Wednesday, November 22
Clive Staples Lewis
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:30 pm: Bellringing

Thursday, November 23
Thanksgiving Day (Parish Office Closed)
10:00 am: Mass

Friday, November 24
(Parish Office Closed)
12:15 pm: Mass

Saturday, November 25
James Otis Sargent Huntington
10:00 am: Flower Guild (to 1:00 pm)
4:00 pm: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Sunday, November 26
The Feast of Christ the King
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Sung Mass
10:15 pm: Church School
11:15 am: Solemn Mass

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Allan B. Warren III at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, November 12, 2017, the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

This morning I want us to look briefly at a verse taken from the Epistle reading we just heard: Paul’s first letter to the Church at Thessalonika.  In it he addresses a problem which was of concern to members of the Church there: what should they believe about those in the Church who had died before the second coming of Christ.  This was a pressing problem and not just in Thessalonika, for many of the earliest Christians expected the second coming to happen very soon.  Next week. Perhaps even tomorrow.  When it didn’t, people wondered why and, as I mentioned, some worried about what became of people who died in the meantime.

Paul answers the question and the answer is metaphorical and uses various unusual images.  One verse, however, is quite literal.  He tells us, “And so we shall always be with the Lord.” (4:18)

That, says Paul, is what the coming of Christ is all about.  That is what heaven, paradise if you will, the afterlife, the consummation of all things and their recreation in Christ –  that is what they are all about: being with the Lord.  “And so we shall always be with the Lord.”

The words to pay attention to here are we and withWe and with.  Let’s start with with.

One of the most marvelous truths about our God is expressed by the word with.  God is not – thank heaven – a with-it God, though some might wish God so.  God is, rather, a withing God.  In the first place and fundamentally, the doctrine of the Trinity tells us that God is a community of three persons who are with one another.  With one another so much so that each person, though distinct, can be said to be in the others.  It should be no surprise, then, that from the very beginning, in Holy Scripture, we see God always acting to be with, for such action is consonant with God’s Trinitarian being.  God acts to be with creation.  God acts to be with man, humanity.  God does not stand apart.  God is never removed.  God always moves and acts and desires to be with that which he creates, with creation itself and with man. 

God was with man in creation, and when humanity fell away from God – from being with God – God acted again to be with man in a special way.  He chose a nation, a people, Israel, the Jews.  “You shall be my people, and I shall be your God” is the truth of the Old Covenant.  “To be a light to the Gentiles” – to bring those apart from God back to God – is the mission of the Jews.

These two are as well the truth of the New Covenant and the mission of the Church, for that sacred name of Israel’s highest hope, Emmanuel, God-with-us, is the reality of the Church.  Emmanuel, God-with-us, Jesus, God and man, God with man.  Jesus is the perfect expression and action of the, if I may so put it, the with-ness, the withing of God.  Jesus is our redemption and our salvation, because he is our at-one-ment, our withing with God.  Jesus is our truth, for it is the truth and the real design and destiny of humanity to be with God.  And thus, it is also the truth of the consummation of all things and of ourselves, “heaven” if you wish: “And so we shall always be with the Lord.”  Perfectly and gloriously with God.

It’s like love, you know.  Most of us have been crazy enough and lucky enough to have been in love.  And when we are in love there is no greater joy, no greater fulfillment than being with the one we love.  And there is no pain or deprivation greater than being away from the one you love.  To be with the beloved is joy and happiness, one’s true self.  To be away is pain and sadness, one’s self diminished.

To be with God is to be with the absolute beloved.  (It is no coincidence that God in parable from Jesus we heard this morning is pictured as a bridegroom.  Nor is it a coincidence that in past ages the Song of Songs was the book most commented upon in the Bible.)  God is the beloved and the lover toward which all human loves do point, and to be with God is utter and absolute joy.

*          *          *          *          *

“And so we shall always be with God.”

Enough of with.  Let’s think about we, for if the action of God is an action of with, it is also an action of we.  It is the creation of an ever larger and wider and more intense we.  “It is not good for the man to be alone,” and from that judgement comes woman, and the first human first person pronoun, we.  The we then of children and family.  The we of community.  And in the redemption: the we of the Jews, and in Jesus the we of the Church.

This morning all of us gathered here in this building, and we came from various parts of the city and thereabout.  We came as individuals, as single I’s one might say.  Now here in the Church, here at this Mass, all those I’s have been gathered together into a we.  That is God’s action:  to bring us together, to bring humanity together into a body, into a we into Jesus’ body, the Church.

That is the truth of the present – which worried the Thessalonians – and that is the truth of the future –  which also worried the Thessalonians.  But the fullness of the truth is this: that the future of God, bringing all things together, breaks into the reality of the present.  The future makes itself known and active in the present.  It is present in this Mass, and in every Mass celebrated in this Church.  God is with us in the Sacrament of the Altar.  And we – all of us – we drink from the one cup, we eat the same bread from the same table – God’s altar.  And we – no longer separate – are brothers and sisters in the present and in the future banquet of God.

Amen.

Collect for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

O God, whose blessed Son was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant us, we beseech thee, that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves even as he is pure; that, when he shall appear again with power and great glory, we may be made like unto him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, he liveth and reigneth ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

This Week’s Announcements, November 12-18, 2017

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


If you are visiting or new  to the Advent, we hope that you will feel welcome and at home.  Please fill out a visitor’s/newcomer’s card so that we will have a record of your visit here and can keep in touch.


All persons baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit are invited to the Altar to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If you wish to receive a blessing, come to the Altar and cross your arms over your chest.


Childcare is provided for infants and toddlers during both the 9 am and 11:15 am Masses. 

9:00 am—Infant nursery is located on the first floor in the room beyond the Parish Office.  The Toddler nursery is located downstairs in Moseley Hall.

11:15 am—Infants and Toddlers are cared for on the first floor in the room beyond the office.

If you have questions or special needs we want to hear them.  Contact Meg Nelson 856-217-0847 or megwnelson@gmail.com.


TODAY!


9:00 Coffee Hour. Will Joyner & Linda Jones and Ray Porter host the Coffee Hour this morning.  The hosts next week will be Tony Pulsone & Darcy Montaldi and Melissa Fox.  New coffee hour hosts are always needed; please contact Barbara Boles by email bbolesster@gmail.com, or telephone (617-501-7572) if you’re interested or have questions about what is entailed.

11:15 Coffee Hour. This week’s Coffee Hour is hosted by Eric Aho and Michael Oliveri.  Next week the hosts will be Brian Sirman and Thiago Rêgo.  We are in need of more volunteers to do the coffee hour. 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) or Kyle Pilares (kpilares.uk@gmail.com).


This evening at 8 pm, join us for the ancient liturgy of Compline, preceded by Lucernarium, an evening service of lamp-lighting . We pray Compline on the second Sunday of every month at 8:00 pm in the nave.  There will be special music at the Compline service this evening and a reception will follow.  There is a particular need for parishioners familiar with liturgical practice at the Advent to participate, so if you are interested in helping celebrate this service of prayer before bedtime in the custom of early Christian monasticism, please contact Fr Hanson (frhanson@theadventboston.org). 


Dear Members and Friends of the Church of the Advent,

I would like to announce here on our web site something I announced at the Masses on All Saints’ Sunday. And that is, that I have called the Rev’d Jay Carleton James to come to the Advent and serve as Associate Rector. And . . . Deo gratias !! Father James has accepted my call. He is presently Rector of St. Timothy’s Church in Raleigh, North Carolina and has served there for twenty-three years. Both he and his wife Betsy have roots in New England, and many of you know them from summer Sundays when they worshipped at the Advent or from the St. Michael’s Conference with which Fr. James has been involved for any years. I noticed quite a few distinct smiles throughout the congregation when I made the announcement yesterday. He is an old friend of mine – I was at his wedding ! – and I look forward to the honor of serving side by side with him.

Father Warren

Fr. Jay and Betsy James and their children, Olivia and Sam.

THIS WEEK!


Bible Study takes place on Wednesdays at 10:00 am in the Library.  We are currently reading the Epistle to the Romans. 


This coming Wednesday evening, November 15, there will be a service of Solemn Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 6:30 pm.  On Thursday evening, November 16, a Solemn Mass will be celebrated also at 6:30 pm.  The Very Rev’d Professor Andrew McGowan, Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale will preach at the Mass.  There services are offered in conjunction with the conference, Anglo-Catholicism: Uncovering Roots, to be held at the Advent this week.  All are invited to attend these services. 

The conference itself is completely subscribed, and so if you have not already registered we are sorry to say that there are no places left. 


COMING UP!


Next Sunday, November 19, the Advent will have a Solemn Evensong and Benediction at 5:00 pm.  It will be preceded by an organ recital by John Wessler at 4:30 pm. 

At a light supper to follow, long-time friend of the Advent the Rev’d Canon Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff will speak about his experiences and perceptions regarding Muslim/Christian Relations in the Middle East, as well as his perceptions of the same in the West, entitled “For Better or Worse:  Just what do we want in the Middle East?”  It was supposedly said of John Foster Dulles as Secretary of State, that there was no situation which a few words from him could not make worse.  This is not only a caution to those so rash as to speak upon the subject, but also reminds of the long history of missteps and travail in the region.  There is now also a sense of fatigue affecting many who feel that Western efforts to intervene in the Middle East have all too often ended badly.  But probably everyone can at least agree that things are not as they should be.  While the remedies advanced are myriad and fragmented in consequence of a deep diversity of goals among the key actors, it is interesting to ask what a good outcome in the Middle East would be.  What is the place of Christians within that future and of the current religious diversity in the region?  What can we learn by reflecting upon where it all went wrong in the past?

The talk will reflect on or two key turning points and the impact of personal experience in the region upon these large questions.  It is hoped that these reflections will provoke a lively debate given the difficulty of arriving at definitive answers.

Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff is Director General of the World Dialogue Council, which promotes better relations between the many worlds of Islam and the West.  He was formerly Dean of All Saints’ Cathedral in Cairo where he has also advised the Anglican Bishop of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa, the Most Rev’d Dr Mounir Anis, currently Primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. 


STEWARDSHIP 2018


The first returns for the 2018 Canvass are coming in.  Thanks to everyone who pledged so promptly! 

As of this past Thursday we have received 37 pledges, pledging a total of $85,484.  12 have increased their pledges by 20%, and there are two new pledges.  We have still to hear from 179 parishioners who pledged a total of $425,329 last year.

The Stewardship Committee thanks all who have made a pledge so far.  If you have not yet pledged, please do so soon.  

If you did not receive a 2018 stewardship packet in the mail, there are Stewardship brochures and pledge cards on the tables at the rear of the Church.  And you can pledge on line by going to the parish website www.theadventboston.org and clicking the “Pledge Online” button.


ODDS & ENDS


Vestry Nominations.  Please note that several members of the Vestry, a Treasurer and a Clerk will be elected at the Annual Meeting to be held on Sunday, January 28, 2018.  It is not too early to think about members of the Parish whom you think would serve effectively on the Vestry.  A Nominating Committee consisting of John Higgins, Jack Gurnon, Thatcher Gearhart, Kara Rodgers, Father Warren, and the Wardens, Tom Brown and Paul Roberts, is ready to receive the names of those whom you wish to nominate.  Please speak to them beforehand to make sure that they are willing to run.  


The official Church of the Advent Staff Tee Shirt was inaugurated last Holy Week.  The design emphasizes the real, flesh and blood, and, if you will, space and time reality of the Incarnation.  Something which happened and is still happening.  It was borrowed from a Swedish journal of theology and is a human heart surrounded by the words of John 1:14—And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us—in the original Greek.  Since then, there have been requests for similar tee shirts from as far abroad as Christ Church, Hamilton!  We have, therefore, decided to abandon our unfair restriction to Staff members and offer these tee shirts to anyone who wishes one.  They come white and gray and in all sizes.  The price will be decided by the number of tee shirts ordered, but should be around $20.

The design and a specimen are posted downstairs.  If you would like one, email rector@theadventboston.org giving the size and color. This is the last week that orders can be taken for shirts.


Discount Vouchers for the Boston Common Garage are available for $9.00 each from Deacon Daphne or Nola Sheffer. You can find them between the 9:00 and 11:15 Masses at the Coffee Hour or Entr’acte. The vouchers can be used after 4:00 pm weekdays, and all day Saturday and Sunday. Questions? email: nsheffer@newview.org.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
November 13-19, 2017

Monday, November 13
8:30 am: Advent School Community Share Event
5:15 pm: Girl Scouts

Tuesday, November 14
Bestowal of the American Episcopate
6:00 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, November 15
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:30 pm: Solemn Evensong & Benediction
7:00 pm: Bellringing

Thursday, November 16
Margaret of Scotland
6:30 pm: Solemn Mass

Friday, November 17
Hugh of Lincoln

Saturday, November 18
Hilda of Whitby
10:00 am: Advent Choir Rehearsal
10:00 am: Flower Guild (to 1:00 pm)

Sunday, October 19
The Twenty-fourth 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
4:30 pm: Organ Recital
5:00 pm: Solemn Evensong & Benediction; Lecture

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Allan B. Warren III at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, November 5, 2017, the Solemnity of the Feast of All Saints

From St. Paul, writing to the Colossians:

“For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (3:3)

And from St. Paul writing to the Galatians:

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (2:20)

Outside of Easter, of course, today is, I think, the most important in the Church’s year, for today is the feast by which Christianity proves itself to be true.  All Saints’ Day.  Christianity proves itself because it makes saints, and we celebrate them today.  Christianity results in women and men whose lives have been changed, whose lives have been enriched, whose lives have been transformed into the image of their maker and their Savior.  Transformed.  And yet more than transformed, for the life of their Savior lives in them and they mystically live in Him.  “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” 

If Christianity did not make saints, there would be no point to it.  No point at all.  It would be nothing more than a dozen or so empty beliefs which look like superstition.  It might be thought to be oppressive and ignorant.  It might even be reckoned something to get rid of for the common good.  If Christianity did not make saints, all those things might well be right and proper.

But again, as I said,  today – All Saints’ Day – Christianity proves itself, for Christianity makes saints.  Those who follow Jesus, and acknowledge Him as Lord, those who receive Him mystically by water and bread and wine live by His life and who pattern their lives on His.  And their lives make known His life, His love, His strength, His courage, His peace.  They – saints – are His body.  They – saints – are His risen body in the world, and they – saints, Christians – make a difference in the life of the world, for they bring Christ, really and truly and bodily, into the life of the world.  Together with the sacraments, they are his real presence in the life of the world.  They know Christ, and they make him known.  Today – All Saints’ Day – Christianity proves itself to be true.

*   *   *   *   *

From the Gospel today, we heard this: “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn.  Blessed are the meek.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful.  Blessed are the pure in heart.  Blessed are the peacemakers.   Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.  ( Mt. 5 )

There are all kinds of saints, all shapes and sizes, just as there are all kinds of people, for sanctity does not eradicate  personality; rather, it enhances it.  The life of Christ within makes persons more themselves.  What they are is magnified by the grace of Christ within. They become who they really are, who God destined them to be.

There are all kinds of saints, just as there are manifold and various gifts bestowed upon men and women by God’s Holy Spirit.  The Spirit grants what is needed to make Christ known in the world.  Wisdom, knowledge, faith, love, healing, prophecy, discernment, hope, courage, and more are gifts of the Holy Spirit to women and men who – saints – make Christ known in the world.

*     *     *     *

During the year there are various special days for special saints.  We celebrated one only a few weeks ago.  St. Francis.  He would vehement deny it to be sure, but we might well call him a hero of the Faith.  And there many other such heroes.  St. Augustine.  St. Benedict.  Mother Teresa of Calcutta in our own time.

And we need heroes in the Faith, just as we need them, I suppose, in sports.  Because they show us something exceptional, an accomplishment that amazes us, a possibility far beyond the usual limit of possibility.  We need such heroes, and we celebrate them.

But, I have to tell you that I am often cowed by heroes.  I am a bit frightened of them, because if they inspire – which they do – they also show me up for what I am.  A pretty ordinary garden-variety Christian, who “on the race that is set before me” often stumbles and falls, but, by God’s grace, gets up and keeps on going. 

Most of us, I think, are like that, and so in fact were those we look to as heroes.  They stumbled and fell and by God’s grace in Jesus got up and got going again.  And so when we celebrate them what we really celebrate is God’s grace in Jesus.  And today we celebrate that also in ourselves.  God’s grace in Jesus is why we are here and keeps us coming back.

God’s grace in Jesus has created that great cloud of witnesses who testify to the victory of the Lamb.  Some are bright lights.  Others, one might say, have a lesser luminosity, but together they form a shining cloud of grace and glory, of love and joy, and they witness to the victory of God.

Amen.

Collect for the Solemnity of All Saints

O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

This Week’s Announcements, November 5-11, 2017

The flowers at the High Altar are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of George and Frances Lee McCormick.

The flowers at the Crossing are given to the Glory of God and in thanksgiving for Sammy, Renee, Ellie, Patrick and Flannery Wood.   


If you are visiting or new  to the Advent, we hope that you will feel welcome and at home.  Please fill out a visitor’s/newcomer’s card so that we will have a record of your visit here and can keep in touch.


All persons baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit are invited to the Altar to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If you wish to receive a blessing, come to the Altar and cross your arms over your chest.


Childcare is provided for infants and toddlers during both the 9 am and 11:15 am Masses. 

9:00 am—Infant nursery is located on the first floor in the room beyond the Parish Office.  The Toddler nursery is located downstairs in Moseley Hall.

11:15 am—Infants and Toddlers are cared for on the first floor in the room beyond the office.

If you have questions or special needs we want to hear them.  Contact Meg Nelson 856-217-0847 or megwnelson@gmail.com.


TODAY!


9:00 Coffee Hour. Rachel Johnson & Rob Braman and Megan & Mike Zadig. host the Coffee Hour this morning.  The hosts next week will be Will Joyner & Linda Jones and Ray Porter. New coffee hour hosts are always needed; please contact Barbara Boles by email bbolesster@gmail.com, or telephone (617-501-7572) if you’re interested or have questions about what is entailed.

11:15 Coffee Hour. This week’s Coffee Hour is hosted by grateful members of the Advent in celebration of Fr Wood’s eight blessed years of service here.  We are in need of more volunteers to do the coffee hour. 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) or Kyle Pilares (kpilares.uk@gmail.com).

Because of the celebration there will be no Entr’acte today. 


A Message from Father Wood

By now many if not most of the parish have heard that I have accepted a call to become the rector at St Bartholomew’s Church in Nashville, Tennessee.  The excitement of this new call is certainly tempered by the profound sadness we have at leaving Boston and the Advent, both of which are deeply engraved on my heart.  But Renee and I feel God leading us into this next step, and we hope to have a chance to share that vision with each of you before we have to go.  I do ask for your prayers for us, for Ellie, Patrick and Flannery, and for St B’s, and you may rest assured that you and the Advent will never be far from our thoughts and prayers wherever God leads us.  Thank you for a blessed eight (!) years with you, and may God continue to bless you richly.

                                                            Affectionately and faithfully,
                                                                   Fr Sammy +


A Rogues’ Gallery of all the Rectors of the Church of the Advent since its inception in 1844 has just come to fruition in the Parish House Lobby.  This project has—believe it or not—taken five years to complete.  Fr Warren did the research and gathered the pictures and photographs.  Cassie Gurnon supervised the framing, which was done by Dave Poutré on Charles Street.  She and Jack hung the pictures.  Many, many thanks to all of those involved. 

So, come over to the Parish House and take a look at the Rogues.  There are sixteen.  They come in all shapes and sizes and, if they could speak, would have many interesting tales to tell.


THIS WEEK!


Bible Study takes place on Wednesdays at 10:00 am in the Library.  We are currently reading the Epistle to the Romans. 


Veterans’ Day will be observed this Friday, November 10.  The Parish Office will be closed.  The regular schedule will be in effect—Morning Prayer at 9:00 am; Low Mass at 12:15 pm; Evening Prayer is cancelled.


COMING UP!


Compline at the Advent—Next Sunday, November 12, at 8 pm—join us for the ancient liturgy of Compline, preceded by Lucernarium, an evening service of lamp-lighting.  We pray Compline on the second Sunday of every month at 8:00 pm in the nave.  There will be special music at the Compline service this evening and a reception will follow


Mark your calendars now for a special event at the Church of the Advent in advance of the American Academy of Religion Meeting in Boston: “Anglo-Catholicism: Uncovering Roots”, November 15-16, 2017.

What is Anglo-Catholicism? This brief conference, on the eve of the annual meeting of the AAR, will delve into our broad tradition in a bid to remember and retrieve the best of the past for a faithful future. Inspired by the Anglo-Catholic congresses of the 20th century, young scholars will deliver papers on the holy, catholic, apostolic pattern of Scripture, sacraments, prayer, and the Church herself, formed by God in Christ. For more information, contact Fr Hanson (frhanson@theadventboston.org), or to register, go to https://www.theadventboston.org/anglo-catholicism-uncovering-roots/.  Please register by this Wednesday, November 8

Anglo-Catholicism: Uncovering Roots—Conference Banquet—Parishioners interested in the upcoming conference should know that a banquet is planned to conclude the event at the historic Club of Odd Volumes.  The banquet is to be held at 8 pm on Thursday, November 16, immediately following Solemn Mass at the parish.  The Club of Odd Volumes is located at 77 Mount Vernon Street. 

Given the unique nature of the venue, which is a private club dating from 1887, certain inflexible rules must be observed:

  • First, dress is coat and tie for gentlemen and equivalent apparel for ladies. No jeans or sneakers. 
  • Second, cell phones and photography are strictly prohibited. No cell phones will be allowed in the club for any reason.

The cost is $75 and must be paid in advance, before November 8.  Please sign up for the banquet at the same website for conference registration at:  www.theadventboston.org/anglo-catholicism-uncovering-roots.  Even if you are unable to attend the conference itself, please come along to the Solemn Mass at 6:30 pm on November 16  (The Very Rev’d Professor Andrew McGowan, Dean and President of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University, will be our preacher) and join the conference speakers, the parish clergy, and conference participants afterward for a sumptuous dinner at 8 pm at the Club of Odd Volumes.  Please speak to Fr. Hanson if you have any questions.   


On Sunday, November 19 at 5 pm, there will be a special Evensong and Benediction.  At a light supper to follow, long-time friend of the Advent the Rev’d Canon Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff will speak to us about his experiences and perceptions regarding Muslim/Christian Relations in the Middle East, as well as his perceptions of the same in the West, entitled “For Better or Worse:  Just what do we want in the Middle East?”  It was supposedly said of John Foster Dulles as Secretary of State, that there was no situation which a few words from him could not make worse.  This is not only a caution to those so rash as to speak upon the subject, but also reminds of the long history of missteps and travail in the region.  There is now also a sense of fatigue affecting many who feel that Western efforts to intervene in the Middle East have all too often ended badly.  But probably everyone can at least agree that things are not as they should be.  While the remedies advanced are myriad and fragmented in consequence of a deep diversity of goals among the key actors, it is interesting to ask what a good outcome in the Middle East would be.  What is the place of Christians within that future and of the current religious diversity in the region?  What can we learn by reflecting upon where it all went wrong in the past?

The talk will reflect on or two key turning points and the impact of personal experience in the region upon these large questions.  It is hoped that these reflections will provoke a lively debate given the difficulty of arriving at definitive answers.

Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff is Director General of the World Dialogue Council, which promotes better relations between the many worlds of Islam and the West.  He was formerly Dean of All Saints’ Cathedral in Cairo where he has also advised the Anglican Bishop of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa, the Most Rev’d Dr Mounir Anis, currently Primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East.   


ODDS & ENDS


Vestry Nominations.  Please note that several members of the Vestry, a Treasurer and a Clerk will be elected at the Annual Meeting to be held on Sunday, January 28, 2018.  It is not too early to think about members of the Parish whom you think would serve effectively on the Vestry.  A Nominating Committee consisting of John Higgins, Jack Gurnon, Thatcher Gearhart, Kara Rodgers, Father Warren, and the Wardens, Tom Brown and Paul Roberts, is ready to receive the names of those whom you wish to nominate.  Please speak to them beforehand to make sure that they are willing to run.  


The official Church of the Advent Staff Tee Shirt was inaugurated last Holy Week.  The design emphasizes the real, flesh and blood, and, if you will, space and time reality of the Incarnation.  Something which happened and is still happening.  It was borrowed from a Swedish journal of theology and is a human heart surrounded by the words of John 1:14—And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us—in the original Greek.  Since then, there have been requests for similar tee shirts from as far abroad as Christ Church, Hamilton!  We have, therefore, decided to abandon our unfair restriction to Staff members and offer these tee shirts to anyone who wishes one.  They come white and gray and in all sizes.  The price will be decided by the number of tee shirts ordered, but should be around $20.

The design and a specimen are posted downstairs.  If you would like one, email rector@theadventboston.org giving the size and color.


Discount Vouchers for the Boston Common Garage are available for $9.00 each from Deacon Daphne or Nola Sheffer. You can find them between the 9:00 and 11:15 Masses at the Coffee Hour or Entr’acte. The vouchers can be used after 4:00 pm weekdays, and all day Saturday and Sunday. Questions? email: nsheffer@newview.org.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
November 6-12, 2017

Monday, November 6
William Temple of Canterbury
5:00 pm: Beacon Hill Village Meeting 

Tuesday, November 7
Willibrord of Utrecht
6:00 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, November 8
10:00 am: Beacon Hill Garden Club
10:00 am: Bible Study
2:00 pm: Youth Homelessness Task Force
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bellringing
7:00 pm: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Thursday, November 9

Friday, November 10
Leo the Great (Veterans’ Day Observed – Parish Office Closed)

Saturday, November 11
Martin of Tours
10:00 am: Advent Choir Rehearsal
10:00 am: Flower Guild (to 1:00 pm)

Sunday, October 12
The Twenty-third 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
8:00 pm: Compline

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Allan B. Warren III at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, October 15, 2017, the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

A month or so ago, I got my marching orders from the Stewardship Committee, and, being the dutiful and obedient soul that all of you know me to be, I am following their instructions to the letter.  Today my sermon will be about Stewardship, and it will be in two parts.  The first will address a few aspects of the finances of this parish.  In the second part we will think together about the implications of this morning’s Gospel for Stewardship and for the Christian’s spiritual life.

As all of you know, the Church of the Advent is fortunate enough to have a sizable endowment.  This is a boon for any institution, but for a large church with venerable buildings in an expensive city it is a blessing and – let’s face it – it is also a necessity.

The endowment has come to us over the years from a number of people.  Some have added to it during their lifetime; others have remembered us in their wills.  There have been some large sums of money and there have been many small sums.  It is very important to note, however, that they have come to us not out of the largesse of the rich and powerful, but rather out of gratitude for what the Church of the Advent has meant in various people’s lives.  They gave, they remembered the Church of the Advent, because they had received from the Church of the Advent.  They gave because they had received.  The major part of our endowment came to us some years ago from a woman who was a doctor – one of the first woman doctors in Boston – and a regular Sunday by Sunday communicant for decades.  During my time here we have received several remarkable legacies.  Nearly a half million dollars from a man who was a janitor.  A sizable sum from a woman who ran a dress shop.  And quite recently, more than three-quarters of a million dollars from a man who can only be described as odd.  Likable, lovable, but funny and odd.  And so, you see, again what has come to us has not come from the grand and glorious, the rich and the powerful, but rather from fairly inconspicuous people who had in common this one thing: their devotion to and their gratitude for the Church of the Advent.  They gave because they had received.

That’s a first point.  Here comes a second.  Without the endowment the Church of the Advent would not exist, and so we should give thanks for the generosity and the gratitude of the dead.  Income from the endowment allows us to maintain and repair the buildings.  It covers certain unvarying expenses – heat, light, cleaning, office expenses, insurance and so on – and these are expenses over which we have absolutely no control.  They must be met and they must be paid for simply to keep us open and operating.  But that’s as far as it goes – simply to keep us open and operating.  Nothing more.

Everything else depends upon the disciplined giving of those who are members of the Church of the Advent.  You have heard me say this before and you may well hear me say it again, for it cannot be overstated.  Those things which make a church, a community, a living family of believers depend on the disciplined giving of us all – our programs – our projects, teaching for children and adults, the pastoral availability of the clergy, financial aid in emergencies, various activities – like Theology on Tap, the Prayer and Care Team, our outreach like the Community Dinner and other projects to aid the poor and needy.  These things which – again – make us a church, not just a group of buildings on Beacon Hill, but a living, involved community of believers – these are made possible by the disciplined giving of that community of believers.  Your pledge to this Parish is very important.  It is, in fact, essential.  What we do and what we are is determined by what we give.

Now let’s turn to Scripture: Caesar’s tax and whether to pay it.  I’ve seen one of the coins mentioned in the Gospel this morning.  Even today authentic ones are very common in the Holy Land, and you can buy one from a reputable merchant or you can buy a fake one from a guy in the street.  They’re not very big – about twice the size of one’s thumbnail – and they weren’t worth very much – about a day’s wages for a laborer.  And so the tax about which Jesus was questioned by his opponents was not necessarily burdensome.  Most people could pay it without much of a problem.  And this means, of course, that the question put to Jesus was about much more than money.  It was about politics and it was about power, for the tax was a tax levied by the Roman oppressor.  A tax upon God’s chosen people – His nation – by their Gentile conquerors.  Some Jews saw paying the tax as an act of treason.  It was, then, partly for this group that his opponents posed the question.  If Jesus said, “God ahead. Pay up,” he was a traitor and a fraud.  But not to pay was to defy the authority of Rome, and so if Jesus declared the tax not to be lawful, he was a rebel and a danger to the prevailing order.  And so, you see, his opponents were playing both sides of the game; it was also for the Romans that his opponents posed the question.  If Jesus said, “Don’t pay” – well, the Romans knew how to deal with people who defied them.

Hypocrites indeed, these people.  Playing both sides of the game and trying to trap Jesus.  What a pitiful scene: the religious and political authorities threatened by a wandering rabbi.

But there is a bit more going on in this story from St. Matthew.  It is somewhat less obvious, so let me explain.  The tax was levied on every man, woman, child – slave or free – in the Empire.  It was called the κέντος, census, and that’s what it was – a head tax, a yearly and rather simple method of taking stock of the population.  This may sound fairly innocent and insignificant, but it’s not.  It is a method of control.  To know how many people there are and where they are is a first step in controlling them.  And so, you see, to pay the tax, the κέντος, was for a Jew not only to recognize the oppressor, but also to make possible the oppression.

One more thing.  The tax had to be paid in Roman coinage – no local currency.  That is how Jesus knew what he was going to see when his opponents showed him the coin, and what he did see was this: the head, image of Tiberius the Emperor and an inscription which declared Tiberius to be divine.  The coin, itself, was then both a blasphemy and a forbidden graven image.  Some Jews would not even touch one; they got others to pay the tax for them.  But such scruples were of no interest to Jesus’ opponents.  They just wanted to get him.  But they failed.  They lost the game.

And they brought him a coin.  And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”  They said, “Caesar’s.”  Then he said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  When they heard it, they marveled; and they left him and went away.   (Matt. 22:19-22)

There is a great deal to be said about Jesus’ very quick and brilliant reply.  I want to leave that for another time.  More apropos today is to notice that the story we heard is based upon the relationship between money and power.  In this instance, a small amount of money had wide-ranging implications for power.  The two, of course, are always related.  Sometimes they are even equivalent: money is power and power is money.  Both are necessary for life in the world.  Both are capable of bringing about great good, but they are equally capable of bringing about great evil and horror and destruction and death.

Money and power can make intelligent people foolish and stupid.  Money and power can make good people turn bad and bad people get worse.  Money and power can make us betray our families, our friends, our country, our faith.  Money and power can blind us to our station in the created world, seducing us into thinking, like that Emperor on the Roman coin, that we are god.  Money and power are necessary, but they are also extraordinarily dangerous.  Dangerous.

And that is why, good people, there must be a discipline about money and power in each of our lives.  We must keep these in control and not let them take us over.  Not let them lead us astray or blind us to reality.  And that is one of the things that stewardship and pledging is all about: not being taken over.  Living out the acknowledgement that all we are and all we have, we have received from God.  (It is not ours.  We have it in trust.)  A pledge is a disciplined – weekly, monthly, whatever – acknowledgement of that truth by returning to God a portion of what we have received from Him.  That truth can only live in us if we live it out, if we adopt it as a discipline and a commitment.

And so, here we are.  Today we begin together to think about this commitment and this discipline.  Let us pray God that we may hear this truth and that, as Jesus said, that truth may make us free.

Amen.