Sermon Preached by Eric Fialho at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, February 17, 2019, the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

“A Godly Vulnerability: The Irony of Emptiness”

There is an adage that says, “There are no atheists in the trenches.”  This phrase appeared during World War I, and came to represent the idea that the unbelieving heart comes to pray when it is in peril.  That the resistant mind which asserts that the divine is impossible can allow for the divine to become possible when danger is near, or when death is at one’s heels.

We do not necessarily need a battlefield to bring the unbelieving heart into acknowledging the always persisting hand of God at work in the world.  It can be through any jolt which this life affords us, any jolt which brings the unbelieving heart out of its own way and into the way of the Lord.  Choosing to come to the Lord for the resistant heart happens through a sort of emptiness.  

It happens through a deep acknowledgment within one’s striving heart to reach up to the heavens and say, I need you God.  To reach up to the heavens and say I need not the things of this world.   I need not the fullness this world can give me for it has been shallow, and it has been false.   The only portion I need Lord is from you.   It is through this sort of emptiness that the empty is filled, and the empty is made blessed.  It is through our own poverty of spirit that we come into the realm of the almighty more clearly.   We are able to find blessedness through our emptiness.  Whether this emptiness has always been a part of us, or is foisted upon us due to circumstances which collide with us, in the trenches or otherwise.

Jesus speaks of this emptiness, this emptying of self, often in the Gospels.  In many ways it is a persistent companion, this notion of the need to be empty in order to be filled by the Divine. 

A scene opens to us in Luke in which a teacher is amidst his students, his hearers. Jesus is depicted here as teacher, as a teacher who out of the abundance of his heart sets about proclaiming truth to those who come to hear him, and to be healed by him.

On a level plain he spoke to them, maybe even seated among them. He taught of the “great reversal” the seemingly impossible truth that through emptiness, through the profundity of one’s lacking one can be able to know what real fullness is.  Through one’s poverty, through our supposed worldly insufficiencies we are made sufficient by God.

In that level place on that day when the Teacher taught he spoke of this— He spoke about the irony of emptiness.  How through it we are made satisfied.  That in spite of our lacking we are blessed. 

Here before us in this text is a clearly drawn line which Luke sets up for his hearers.

On one side are blessings, on the other side are the curses. Blessings and curses. Beatitudes and woes.  Luke sees fit to emphasize here in his sixth chapter the fullness which can only come from emptiness, or perhaps, from out of the depths of our willingness to be vulnerable for God. To be vulnerable to the blessings God bestows upon humankind when they are willing to be empty of self, I mean to truly be empty.

Emptiness takes many forms.

The poor… hungry…weeping, hated, excluded, reviled, spurned for loving God.

Fullness takes many forms.

The rich. The physically full. The laughing. The false prophets.

And what of the rich? Jesus says that the rich have received their consolation. He warms his hearers to not be consoled by the world or by one’s wealth.  Jesus is warning us to not allow for worldly riches fill us, to stay away from trusting in the riches we store up. For when we allow our wealth, our worldly fullness to dictate our happiness, or our contentedness, we can be lost in our own false truth, a truth which leads only to a shallow place, and not the wide expansive place where God lay.

How can the inconsolable, those who think they have everything, be consoled by God? How can a full vessel be filled?  It cannot.

Yes, God’s love can be imparted to all who wish to come to Him, but it is in that very act of wanting to come to the Lord, through that posture which acknowledges the vastness of God, and the finiteness of ourselves, in which an emptying occurs. Whether one discerns it or not it is an emptying of self. An emptying of a love of riches, and of feeling full by the world. It is a turning from the shallows to the wide expansive place of God.

Luke is also showcasing the idea that God has a special love for the outcast and for the last in this world.  Does God indeed have a special love, or show preferential love for the poor?  I ask this question knowing that it is an unanswerable question, and yet I ask it knowing full well that within us, I think we know the answer.

So, who are the empty? To be empty is often to be vulnerable, to be exposed, to maybe be on the periphery.

To be empty for some may mean needing special attention, or care, or assistance in this life. Being empty may mean always falling short. Being empty may mean always feeling as if you can never get a break in this life. Being empty may mean feeling that hopes are dashed.

When we are empty though we are blessed.  That is where the irony lay. When by our own freewill even we choose to be empty, to throw off the things of this world which construct false and shallow truths around us God is pleased. 

Jesus tells us that it is the poor who will inherit. That it is the poor, the empty, the marginalized, the sinners, those on the periphery who will inherit the Kingdom of God! This troubles me, as I am a person who is comfortable, a person who has things, stuff, and a person who has never gone hungry or been particularly marginalized. Yet, I still see this text as one which inspires a great hope. It reminds me that the first shall be last, that the first will not be forgotten necessarily, but that they, in the workings of God’s mind miss the mark just a bit more than the poor do. It reminds me that the poor know just a bit more about God.

And so, who are they who walk this earth who know God? Who are the ones who walk this earth full of the love of God? Who are the ones who know what the kingdom is? Who are the ones who know what true rejoicing means? Or what true reward means?

It is them that dwell in the trenches. They who are emptied of the distracting cares of this world, and are setting their eyes on the heavenly things. They who strive not for ambition but for satisfaction.   It is them who while all seems to be amiss they are able to lift up their eyes and cry Holy, Holy, Holy.

Amen.

Collect for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in thee: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because, through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee both in will and deed; 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, February 17-23, 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.

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

A Coffee Hour following each service is held in Moseley Hall, reached through the side door at the back of the church. A lift is available for anyone who needs it.

Welcome Cards are located in each pew; please fill one out so we 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.


The flowers at the high altar and the crossing are given to the glory of God and in loving memory of Dr. Frederick L. Haupert.


9:00 Coffee Hour: Darcy Montaldi & Tony Pulsone, and Barbara Boles host this morning! Next week Matt McNeff & David Russo host. 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. Susan Fugliese, Brent & Meg Nelson, and Frank Olney host this morning. 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 Kyle Pilares (kpilares.uk@gmail.com) or Betsy James (ejames4@nc.rr.com).  


Entr’acte resumes today with Father Welch continuing his series Bare Ruined Choirs: A Personal Reflection on the State of the Church in America. 


PARISH-WIDE FORUM – TODAY

The Search Committee hosts a forum today in Moseley Hall during coffee hour following the 11:15 Mass. The purpose of this discussion is to present an overview of the responses to the Parish Questionnaire, to update the Parish on the search process, and to allow members of the Parish to share their thoughts with members of the Search Committee as they work on preparing the Parish Profile. Today’s forum is  moderated by Lynda Blair and John Boyd. Members of the Search Committee will be present as well as the Wardens.


The Advent Choir will sing Choral Evensong at 5:00 pm, featuring music of Willan, Stanford and Jackson. Our series of Evensong & Benediction Talks continues immediately following the service in Moseley Hall when a light supper will be offered and Mark Dwyer will speak briefly about the great Anglican liturgical musician and colorful character, Healey Willan, entitled: “I am Irish by extraction, English by birth, Canadian by adoption, and Scotch, by absorption!” E&B Talks are open to everyone, especially younger parishioners and guests who may not be as familiar with our rich Anglican liturgical heritage. Each evening will comprise a short talk followed by a period for Q&A. 


THIS WEEK


The parish office will be closed Monday, February 18 for Presidents’ Day. There will also be no Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer. There will be a 12:15 Mass. 


CONCERT: On February 22 at 7:30pm, our own internationally-renowned organist Katelyn Emerson (described as “a star of the first rank” by Orgue Canada) will present a concert of works by Bach, Mozart, Langlais, and others, on the 55-rank Aeolian-Skinner organ of Park Street Church, One Park St, Boston 02108. Her program celebrates the completion of the first two phases of the instrument’s four-phase rebuilding. Originally installed in 1960 and dedicated by Virgil Fox, Park Street’s Aeolian-Skinner opus 1353 was intended to be heard frequently in recital, but that goal has not come to fruition; other than the dedication and a single recital by E. Power Biggs shortly thereafter, the instrument has not been played by a renowned artist – until now! Come welcome our former Associate Organist back to Boston and hear an evening of great music! Free of charge, all are welcome.


COMING UP


A SPECIAL PREACHER AND A SPECIAL SPEAKER: Next Sunday, February 24, we will welcome The Reverend Canon Spencer Reece to our pulpit and Nancy Mead to speak at our coffee hours. Canon Reece currently serves as a priest at The Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer in Madrid, Spain. The Cathedral is the center for The Anglican Church in Spain. Canon Reece is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and received masters degrees from The University of York, Harvard Divinity School, and Yale-Berkeley Divinity School. He is not only a priest but a poet as well, receiving numerous awards for his published writings.

At both coffee hours that day we will have the pleasure of hearing talks by Nancy Mead. Nancy is known to many of us from her eleven years as part of our Advent family while her husband, Father Andrew Mead, was serving as our fourteenth Rector. Her talks will focus on her extensive pilgrimages and her recent efforts with The Pilgrimage Centre Project. Nancy has walked five different routes of the Camino de Santiago, the Via Fancigina from Canterbury to Rome, and the Camino del Sud from Rome to the very end of Italy (the heel of the boot). She’s been on other pilgrimages in Europe, England, and Scotland totaling seven thousand miles. She currently serves as Vice President of the Friends of the Anglican Pilgrim Centre in Santiago and has just recently been made a Lay Canon of the Episcopal Cathedral in Madrid. Nancy is the mother of two and the grandmother of four. 

LENTEN THEOLOGY STUDY. The Book of Homilies: A Preached Orthodoxy. 
Wednesdays, March 13 – April 10 at 7:00 pm in the Library

Ever wonder what the early uniquely Anglican texts of theology are? The Book of Homilies provided an orthodox lens through which laity and clergy alike could understand the doctrines and beliefs of the denomination. Pastoral Assistant Eric Fialho will lead this exciting five-week theology course. Several 16th-century homilies will be examined and scrutinized in an attempt to better understand and define early Anglican identity and belief, and its impact on the Church today. All are most welcome to attend! For more information please contact Eric soon at efialho@eds.edu


ODDS & ENDS


Palms for Ashes:  There is a basket in the All Saints’ Chapel to receive last year’s palms from Palm Sunday.  They will be burned to make the ashes for the liturgies of Ash Wednesday.


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.


The flowers that adorn the Church are funded entirely by donations from members and friends of the Parish. There is an opening for flower memorials or thanksgivings for the High Altar on Sunday, March 3. If you are interested, please call the church office. 


Blessing of Homes in Epiphanytide

Saint Matthew tells us that when the wise men arrived in Bethlehem to visit Jesus, they found Him and His mother in a house. This is a cue that in Epiphanytide our celebration should focus on our own houses, and it is a very old custom to bless houses in the Epiphany season. This custom involves chalk that is blessed by the priest and taken home by families to mark the doors of their homes. There is blessed chalk in the west end of the Church, near the main doors, for each of us to use at our homes. Please take some and use it to mark your homes on the lintel above the front door with the first initials of each of the Wisemen framed by the current year. Like this:
20 + G + M + B + 19

Then offer the following prayer:

Leader: The Lord be with you.

People: And with thy spirit.

Leader: Let us pray. O Lord, holy Father, Almighty, everlasting God, we beseech Thee to hear us and vouchsafe to send Thy holy Angel from heaven to guard and cherish, protect and visit, and evermore defend all that dwell in this home. I call upon Thy Saints Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, to protect my family, friends and all who enter here from every harm and danger, and I place this mark over my door to remain as a reminder to us that my home is truly a house where the Lord dwells. O God, make the door of my house the gateway to Thy eternal Kingdom. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
February 18-24, 2019

Monday, February 18
(Martin Luther) 
Church office closed for Presidents’ Day; Mass at 12:15 only.

Tuesday, February 19
5:30 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, February 20
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:00 pm: Administration Committee
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bell Ringing

Thursday, February 21
6:15 pm: Vestry
7:00 pm: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Friday, February 22
11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, February 23
Polycarp of Smyrna
10:00 am: Advent Choir Rehearsal
10:00 am: Flower Guild

Sunday, February 24
The Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Sung Mass
10:15 am: Entr’acte
11:15 am: Solemn Mass

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Dr. Jeffrey A. Hanson at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, February 10, 2019, the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Our Gospel reading today is Luke’s version of how Jesus called his first disciples, chief among them Simon Peter. This is more than a matter of historical interest, because we too call ourselves disciples of Christ, and so much of what is true of Jesus’s first interaction with those who followed him then is also true for those of us who attempt to follow him now and will be true of his followers in the future.

There are in fact three truths about Christ’s call upon our lives that I want to point out today. First, when Jesus calls someone, there is a moment of self-recognition in that calling. Peter discovers something about himself in this moment. Second, when Jesus calls someone, he calls them to a new kind of work and life. Peter is given a new job to do when he chooses to follow Jesus. And third, when Jesus calls someone, he calls them to leave their old life behind.

So let’s consider the circumstances of Christ’s call on Peter. Interestingly enough, according to Luke Jesus calls his first disciples at something of a low point in their lives.

Simon Peter with James and John, his business partners in their little fishing consortium,have been out all night and taken nothing, and now they are cleaning up their nets after a difficult and fruitless effort. It’s been a frustrating time, with lots of work and nothing to show for it.

Fishing from boats would have taken place overnight, so it’s probably daybreak now, but despite the early hour, masses of people are already pressing in to hear the word of God that Jesus uniquely speaks, and so he gets into Peter’s boat to continue his teaching. And when he is done, he has a last word for Peter directly: “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

You will notice that Jesus does not say, “let down your nets and maybe you’ll get a catch.”

He says, “Do as I say and you will get a catch.”

And yet there seems to be no particular reason to believe this. Peter is an experienced fisherman who has been working all night; if there areas  fish to be taken he would have taken them, but he trusts the word of Christ and does as he is bid.

Jesus promises Peter a catch, and a catch he gets. All night long there were no fish, and now there are more than they can all handle.

So here is the first point. Self-recognition. Peter knows he is seeing a miracle. Nothing can explain this except the power that is wrought by the word of God, which has just been spoken in his hearing.

And because he is in the presence of the divine Peter does what people in the Bible always do when they realize they are in the presence of the divine. Gideon in today’s reading from Judges does this, and now Peter does it too. He says, “depart from me, for I am a sinful man.”

The presence of the holy convicts us of our own sin. Knowing we are sinful means we cannot remain safely in the presence of God. We, like Peter, know that our sins make us unworthy to be in God’s presence.

But Jesus does not depart. Jesus does not depart from sinners, because as he says in this very same chapter he came not to call the righteous but to call sinners to repentance.

That is why he is here. Jesus did not come to recruit the morally perfect. He is here to call sinners to repentance, and that is good news for a sinner like me and good news I trust for you too.

Second point: Jesus calls us to a new life. The fishing metaphor is a memorable one, and Luke skillfully develops it, but there are depths here that we may miss.

Peter is a fisherman, and he has as he put it in verse 5 “taken” nothing despite a night’s effort. When Jesus miraculously provides a great catch we know he is intent on staying with us despite our sin and calling us to something new. And so he tells Peter, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.”

The most obvious way this is new is that Peter Jesus says will now be fishing for something different; instead of fishing for fish, he will fish for people.

But with these words, I want to argue that Jesus changes the meaning of what Peter does. He doesn’t just change what Peter fishes for; he changes what it means to fish.

It is good that our translation uses different words for what Peter describes as his own activity:—“we took nothing”—and the words that Jesus uses to describe what Peter is going to do in the future:—“you will be catching.”

Because “took” and “catching” are definitely different in the Greek.

To “take” fish in the Greek implies to catch in the sense of trap or take prisoner. The fisher of fish is someone who catches fish to trap and ultimately to kill them.

But when Jesus says you will be “catching” people the word he uses there means literally to “catch alive.” The fisher of persons is someone who catches those persons to keep them alive.

The fisher of fish is a trapper; the fisher of people is a rescuer.

So despite a surface continuity here between fishing for fish and fishing for people Peter has in fact been given by Jesus a radically new job and a radically new life. From here on out the work he does is work for Christ, to bring others into the same relationship of discipleship with Jesus that Peter himself now begins.

Which brings me to my third point: When Jesus calls us he calls us to leave our old life behind.

What’s the last thing Peter and James and John do in this passage according to Luke? “When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

Think about what that means in view of what has just happened. Peter and James and John, longtime partners in the fishing business, leave their boats and everything in them at the greatest moment of their careers. They are fishermen, and their boats are packed full of fish. This is what they work for, and they have just pulled in the haul of a lifetime. This is like earning your fattest payday ever but refusing to cash the check. And then quitting your job. Just walking away.

So what about those of us who would be disciples of Christ today?

Does Jesus find you this morning at a low point in your life? Do you feel some frustration and annoyance with what you are doing, like you are getting nowhere?

Our own work is often this way. Like Peter, we toil and take nothing.

But if we are disciples of Christ we are not meant to be in the taking business anymore. If we are following Christ, then we are in the business of catching alive. To be like Peter a fisher of persons is to acknowledge our failings, to leave that old life behind, and to follow Jesus wherever he may lead. To fish for people is to draw others as if in a net into following Christ as we have been inspired follow him. And that is a job we can and will be empowered by Christ to do in his service. Just as surely as our Lord promised Peter “you will get a catch” so too does he promise “you will be catching men.” The promise of Christ to us when he calls us is that we are now no longer the frustrated, unfulfilled, and sinful people he called but the who we are becoming as a result of faithfully following our Savior.

But to follow him into that new life it’s possible that today he is asking us to leave something of our old life behind. Maybe even at the height of what looks like success in the eyes of the world. Is our Savior asking you to forsake some comfort or convenience or even walk away from a big payday?

If he is, then know this. It is a new life to which you are called. Whatever our ordinary work might be our task of discipleship is a new job that we are meant to be working alongside and within whatever else we toil at.

Our real job is to help our master Christ call others as we have been called, to rescue them into the life that only he can provide. If we will do this, we can have confidence that where Peter led the way we too will follow and by following we will help rescue others into that same new life that we—with all the saints—enjoy in Christ Jesus. Amen.

This Week at the Advent, February 10-16, 2019

The flowers at the high altar and the crossing are given to the glory of God and in loving memory of Nancy Macmillan.


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.


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.


9:00 Coffee Hour: Melissa Fox and Nola Sheffer host the Coffee Hour this morning! Next week Darcy Montaldi & Tony Pulsone, and Barbara Boles host. 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. Karen Chaney, Alfred Duhamel, and Janell & Michael Saur host the Coffee Hour this morning.  Next week Susan Fugliese, Brent & Meg Nelson, and Frank Olney host.  We are always 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), Roxy Hanson (roxenewu@yahoo.com) or Kyle Pilares (kpilares.uk@gmail.com) or Betsy James (ejames4@nc.rr.com).  


PARISH-WIDE FORUM – TODAY & NEXT SUNDAY

The Search Committee is hosting a forum today in Moseley Hall during the coffee hour following the 9:00 Mass, which will be repeated next Sunday during the later coffee hour. The purpose of these discussions is to present an overview of the responses to the Parish Questionnaire, to update the Parish on the search process, and to allow members of the Parish to share their thoughts with members of the Search Committee as they work on preparing the Parish Profile. Today’s forum is  moderated by Lynda Blair (chair), Meg Nelson, and Jack Gurnon. Next week’s forum–following the 11:15 Mass–will be moderated by Lynda Blair and John Boyd. Members of the Search Committee will be present at both sessions, along with the Wardens.


Entr’acte will not take place today; it will resume next Sunday with Father Welch continuing his series Bare Ruined Choirs: A Personal Reflection on the State of the Church in America.


Compline at the Advent — Tonight at 8:00 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.


THIS WEEK


Upcoming Concert: On Friday, February 15 at 7:30 pm, In Stile Moderno, the ensemble founded by choir member Agnes Coakley Cox, performs at Cambridge Friends Meeting House in its second concert of the 2018-2019 season. Members of the Church of the Advent are very warmly invited! The concert is titled The Lily and the Rose: France and England Entwined and features English and French lute songs of the 17th century, inspired by the union of Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria of France. With songs of both love and betrayal, the concert makes a great post-Valentine’s Day date or anti-Valentine’s Day treat!

For more information please visit instilemoderno.com/concerts and follow the link to buy tickets online. We’re offering two tickets for the price of one with discount code churchoftheadvent. Feel free to contact Agnes at instilemoderno@gmail.com with any questions! 


LET’S RISE AGAINST HUNGER!  Next Saturday, February 16, from 10:00 am to noon we will host a Rise Against Hunger event in Moseley Hall. We will be hosting parishioners and clergy from the other parishes in the Boston Harbor Deanery and attempt to pack 10,000 meals in less than two hours! It sounds impossible, but it can be done, and we can have fun while packing.  These nutritious meals will be shipped to other parts of the world where many are going to bed hungry. We need five or six volunteers from the parish and we are also taking donations to help offset the $3,500.00 it takes to buy the materials for the event. Volunteers are asked to arrive no later than 9:45 and it would be really helpful if there are two or three volunteers to help unload the truck at 8:30 that morning. 


COMING UP


Next Sunday, February 17, The Advent Choir will sing Choral Evensong at 5:00 pm, featuring music of Willan, Stanford and Jackson. Our series of Evensong & Benediction Talks continues immediately following the service in Moseley Hall when a light supper will be offered and Mark Dwyer will speak briefly about the great Anglican liturgical musician and colorful character, Healey Willan, entitled: “I am Irish by extraction, English by birth, Canadian by adoption, and Scotch, by absorption!” E&B Talks are open to everyone, especially younger parishioners and guests who may not be as familiar with our rich Anglican liturgical heritage. Each evening will comprise a short talk followed by a period for Q&A. 


A SPECIAL PREACHER AND A SPECIAL SPEAKER: Two Sundays from now, on Epiphany VII, February 24, we will welcome The Reverend Canon Spencer Reece to our pulpit and Nancy Mead to speak at our coffee hours. Canon Reece currently serves as a priest at The Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer in Madrid, Spain. The Cathedral is the center for The Anglican Church in Spain. Canon Reece is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and received masters degrees from The University of York, Harvard Divinity School, and Yale-Berkeley Divinity School. He is not only a priest but a poet as well, receiving numerous awards for his published writings.

At both coffee hours that day we will have the pleasure of hearing talks by Nancy Mead. Nancy is known to many of us from her eleven years as part of our Advent family while her husband, Father Andrew Mead, was serving as our fourteenth Rector. Her talks will focus on her extensive pilgrimages and her recent efforts with The Pilgrimage Centre Project. Nancy has walked five different routes of the Camino de Santiago, the Via Fancigina from Canterbury to Rome, and the Camino del Sud from Rome to the very end of Italy (the heel of the boot). She’s been on other pilgrimages in Europe, England, and Scotland totaling seven thousand miles. She currently serves as Vice President of the Friends of the Anglican Pilgrim Centre in Santiago and has just recently been made a Lay Canon of the Episcopal Cathedral in Madrid. Nancy is the mother of two and the grandmother of four. 


ODDS & ENDS


Election Results.  At the Annual Meeting of January 27, the following persons were elected to serve on the Parish Vestry:  Lynda Blair, Dustin Henderson, David Lapin, and Francesco Piscitelli were elected to three-year terms.

Frederic Ou was elected to a one-year term as Clerk of the Vestry.  Adam Rutledge was elected to a one-year term as Treasurer

Betsy Madsen and Julianne Turé were elected Delegates to Diocesan Convention and the Deanery; Robb Scholten was elected Alternate Delegate. 

Congratulations to the above persons and our gratitude, as well, for their willingness to serve the Parish.


Palms for Ashes:  There is a basket in the All Saints’ Chapel to receive last year’s palms from Palm Sunday.  They will be burned to make the ashes for the liturgies of Ash Wednesday, which falls on March 6 this year.


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.


The flowers that adorn the Church are funded entirely by donations from members and friends of the Parish. There is an opening for flower memorials or thanksgivings for the High Altar on Sunday, March 3. If you are interested, please call the church office. 


Directory Updates: Due to a technical glitch, the recently published version of the parish directory contained some extraneous information. A revision will be published in the next few weeks, but if any of your contact information has changed recently, please contact the church office (office@theadventboston.org) so that we can be as up-to-date as possible.  


Advent Candles for home use: Please help yourself to some partially used candles; the box is in the rear of the nave. Note that most have oddly sized bases so they may not fit into standard candlesticks, but certainly can be adapted with a little imagination. These are top-quality candles designed for liturgical use, so they have high beeswax content. Light up your life with candles that have been used in this sacred space! Questions, see Deacon Daphne. 


Blessing of Homes in Epiphanytide

Saint Matthew tells us that when the wise men arrived in Bethlehem to visit Jesus, they found Him and His mother in a house. This is a cue that in Epiphanytide our celebration should focus on our own houses, and it is a very old custom to bless houses in the Epiphany season. This custom involves chalk that is blessed by the priest and taken home by families to mark the doors of their homes. There is blessed chalk in the west end of the Church, near the main doors, for each of us to use at our homes. Please take some and use it to mark your homes on the lintel above the front door with the first initials of each of the Wisemen framed by the current year. Like this:
20 + G + M + B + 19

Then offer the following prayer:

Leader: The Lord be with you.

People: And with thy spirit.

Leader: Let us pray. O Lord, holy Father, Almighty, everlasting God, we beseech Thee to hear us and vouchsafe to send Thy holy Angel from heaven to guard and cherish, protect and visit, and evermore defend all that dwell in this home. I call upon Thy Saints Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, to protect my family, friends and all who enter here from every harm and danger, and I place this mark over my door to remain as a reminder to us that my home is truly a house where the Lord dwells. O God, make the door of my house the gateway to Thy eternal Kingdom. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
February 11-17, 2019

Monday, February 11

Tuesday, February 12
5:30 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, February 13
Absalom Jones
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bell Ringing

Thursday, February 14
Cyril & Methodius
7:00 pm: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Friday, February 15
Thomas Bray

11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, February 16
10:00 am: Rise Against Hunger
10:00 am: Advent Choir Rehearsal
10:00 am: Flower Guild

Sunday, February 17
The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Sung Mass
10:15 am: Entr’acte
11:15 am: Solemn Mass
Approx. 1:00 pm:  Search Committee Forum
5:00 pm: Solemn Evensong & Benediction

This Week at the Advent, February 3-9, 2019

The flowers at the high altar are given to the glory of God and in loving memory of Frank Leighton.

The flowers in the crossing are in loving memory of Polly Warren.


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.


Today we welcome Father George Truman Welch on his first Sunday leading us as Interim Rector. Father Welch will be our preacher this morning and lead the first of two  Entr’acte presentations (today and February 17). Please welcome him at the coffee hours. 


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.


9:00 Coffee Hour: Barbara Boles and Abigail & Alister Lewis-Bowen host the Coffee Hour this morning! Next week Melissa Fox and Nola Sheffer host. 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. Mark Aparece, Meg Mill, and Adam & Lea Rutledge host the Coffee Hour this morning.  We are always 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), Roxy Hanson (roxenewu@yahoo.com) or Kyle Pilares (kpilares.uk@gmail.com) or Betsy James (ejames4@nc.rr.com).  


Saint Blaise Day: This morning, in keeping with Saint Blaise Day, we will have The Blessing of Throats immediately following each Mass. Saint Blaise is a fourth century saint to whom is attributed many healing miracles. Saint Blaise healed a boy who was choking on a fishbone, even while being taken to prison, where he eventually met his martyrdom. It has become the tradition for throats to be blessed on this day to maintain health from diseases affecting the voice and heal injuries and cure diseases of the throat. Those wishing to receive The Blessing of Throats are asked to kneel at the Lady Chapel Altar rail immediately after our 8:00, 9:00 and 11:15 Masses. 


Our Entr’acte series of adult education presentations resumes today in the library following the 9:00 Mass. Father Welch, our Interim Rector, begins a two-part series called Bare Ruined Choirs: A Personal Reflection on the State of the Church in America. These presentations are the result of Father Welch’s experience over the last four years as he has visited churches of all types in his region of mid-coast Maine. In these two talks, Fr. Welch will report what he heard, saw, and felt, and also offer a theological reflection on what it may mean to live as a faithful person in a post-Christian society. While the news is most often grim, there are moments of illumination and even exaltation, with valuable lessons for us all. The second part will be on February 17.


To continue today’s celebration of the Feast of Presentation, our entire parish is invited to The Parish of All Saints, Ashmont for Solemn Evensong, a Solemn Procession, and Solemn Benediction at 4:00 pm. Father James will be the guest preacher. The Men and Boys Choir of All Saints’, Ashmont and the Choir of All Saints’ Church in Worcester will sing the service. 


FROM THE SEARCH COMMITTEE

PARISH-WIDE FORUMS February 10 and 17

The Search Committee will be hosting two Parish-wide forums in February. The purpose of these discussions will be to present an overview of the responses to the Parish Questionnaire, to update the Parish on the search process, and to allow members of the Parish to share their thoughts with members of the Search Committee as they work on preparing the Parish Profile. The forums will be moderated by Lynda Blair, chair of the Search Committee, together with other members of the committee. The forums will be held on Sunday, February 10, 2019 after the 9 o’clock Mass (with Lynda Blair, Meg Nelson, and Jack Gurnon moderating) and on Sunday, February 17, 2019 after the 11:15 Mass (with Lynda Blair and John Boyd moderating).

We will hold the meetings in Moseley Hall, which will be set up with plenty of chairs and “coffee hour” goodies in the back. We expect that the February 10 forum after the 9 o’clock will continue past the start of the 11:15 Mass; so if you are usually an 11 o’clocker, and you can only come on February 10, we recommend that you attend the 9 o’clock Mass that week. Members of the Search Committee will be present in addition to the moderators at both forums.  The Wardens also plan to attend both sessions.


THIS WEEK


A Mass of the Resurrection will be celebrated for our long-time parishioner and friend Nancy Macmillan next Saturday, February 9th at 2:30 pm. The committal will immediately follow the Mass in the columbarium in the Crypt, and a reception in honor of Nancy’s life and witness will be in Moseley Hall. “Rest eternal grant unto her, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon her.” 


The Wednesday morning Bible Study meets in the library this Wednesday at 10:00 am,  and currently studying Hebrews.  Please come, bring your Bible, and someone you know. 


COMING UP


20s-and-30s Opera and Martinis — next Sun, February 10. After mass and coffee hour on next Sunday the 20s-and-30s are walking over to the Paramount Theatre to attend the 3:00 pm performance of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, presented by students of the New England Conservatory. After the opera, we will return to the Advent and have our usual drinks and snacks and pizza, all leading up to Compline at 8 pm! Come and make a day of it. Tickets are $20. If interested, contact Kyriell Palaeologue ASAP (k.oldword@gmail.com, 617-396-6225) so that a ticket can be purchased for you (a limited number remain). Money for tickets will be collected on Feb 10, everything else is “on the house”! 


Compline at the Advent — Next Sunday, February 10. 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. 


Upcoming Concert: On Friday, February 15 at 7:30 pm, In Stile Moderno, the ensemble founded by choir member Agnes Coakley Cox, performs at Cambridge Friends Meeting House in its second concert of the 2018-2019 season. Members of the Church of the Advent are very warmly invited! The concert is titled The Lily and the Rose: France and England Entwined and features English and French lute songs of the 17th century, inspired by the union of Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria of France. With songs of both love and betrayal, the concert makes a great post-Valentine’s Day date or anti-Valentine’s Day treat!

For more information please visit instilemoderno.com/concerts and follow the link to buy tickets online. We’re offering two tickets for the price of one with discount code churchoftheadvent. Feel free to contact Agnes at instilemoderno@gmail.com with any questions! 

LET’S RISE AGAINST HUNGER!  Saturday, February 16th from 10:00 am to noon we will host a Rise Against Hunger event in Moseley Hall. We will be hosting parishioners and clergy from the other parishes in the Boston Harbor Deanery and attempt to pack 10,000 meals in less than two hours! It sounds impossible, but it can be done, and we can have fun while packing.  These nutritious meals will be shipped to other parts of the world where many are going to bed hungry. We need five or six volunteers from the parish and we are also taking donations to help offset the $3,500 it takes to buy the materials for the event. Volunteers are asked to arrive no later than 9:45 and it would be really helpful if there are two or three volunteers to help unload the truck at 8:30 that morning.  


ODDS & ENDS


Palms for Ashes:  There is a basket in the All Saints’ Chapel to receive last year’s palms from Palm Sunday.  They will be burned to make the ashes for the liturgies of Ash Wednesday, which falls on March 6 this year.


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.


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 for the High Altar on Sunday, March 3.  If you are interested, please call Blenda Jeffry at 978-443-3519 (flowers.advent@gmail.com).


Advent Candles for home use: Please help yourself to some partially used candles; the box is in the rear of the nave. Note that most have oddly sized bases so they may not fit into standard candlesticks, but certainly can be adapted with a little imagination. These are top-quality candles designed for liturgical use, so they have high beeswax content. Light up your life with candles that have been used in this sacred space! Questions, see Deacon Daphne. 

Blessing of Homes in Epiphanytide

Saint Matthew tells us that when the wise men arrived in Bethlehem to visit Jesus, they found Him and His mother in a house. This is a cue that in Epiphanytide our celebration should focus on our own houses, and it is a very old custom to bless houses in the Epiphany season. This custom involves chalk that is blessed by the priest and taken home by families to mark the doors of their homes. There is blessed chalk in the west end of the Church, near the main doors, for each of us to use at our homes. Please take some and use it to mark your homes on the lintel above the front door with the first initials of each of the Wisemen framed by the current year.
Like this: 20 + G + M + B + 19

Then offer the following prayer:

Leader: The Lord be with you.

People: And with thy spirit.

Leader: Let us pray. O Lord, holy Father, Almighty, everlasting God, we beseech Thee to hear us and vouchsafe to send Thy holy Angel from heaven to guard and cherish, protect and visit, and evermore defend all that dwell in this home. I call upon Thy Saints Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, to protect my family, friends and all who enter here from every harm and danger, and I place this mark over my door to remain as a reminder to us that my home is truly a house where the Lord dwells. O God, make the door of my house the gateway to Thy eternal Kingdom. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
February 4-10, 2019

Monday, February 4

Tuesday, February 5
5:30 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, February 6
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bell Ringing

Thursday, February 7
7:00 pm: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Friday, February 8
11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, February 9
10:00 am: Advent Choir Rehearsal
10:00 am: Flower Guild
2:30 pm: Funeral for Nancy Macmillan

Sunday, February 10
The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Sung Mass
10:15 am:  Search Committee Forum
11:15 am: Solemn Mass
8:00 pm: Compline

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, January 27, 2019, the Third Sunday after Epiphany

In the name of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

I can but be mindful today that we are in this Mass, on the recovery side so to speak, of the Annual Parish meeting.  I am sure it went well and was an occasion of appropriate amity.

It has to be said, however, that the history of church meetings, and indeed formal business, has by no means always been thus, which is to say dealings of sweetness and light.

There are no parallels to be sure, but one thinks of the church furniture being thrown by enraged Presbyterians when Laud attempted to impose the blessing of the use of the Book of Common Prayer in Scotland,  as one example of a meeting that did not go well (in the High Kirk in that instance).

Then again,  it is cautionary to recall the impact of Pope Stephen VI’s desire to assail the reputation of Formosus, in the 9th century.

Since the latter was dead one might have thought this to be an impediment, but Stephen was not to be so easily deflected and simply gave orders for a trial go ahead with the accused dug up and dressed in the robes of his office and placed  in the dock so that the case could proceed.

Needless to say, the judgement went against the accused.

This left the matter of how to effect a punishment. Again, Stephen was equal to the challenge and simply instructed that the remains of Formosus be dragged through the streets before being tossed finally into the Tiber.

Good order in the church also decayed somewhat when Urban VI was elected in 1378, an event which triggered the Great Schism. Noting which cardinals had failed to vote for him he ordered their torture and execution, with his one recorded concern being that the screams of his enemies were not loud enough….

(Then again one has to doubt how he came out of it all in the end when one recalls how and where he was placed by Dante in the Inferno…..)

But we must not get diverted by the cautionary curiosities of Church history and its many episodes of deplorable disorder….

For we come today to one of the shortest but also most sensational sermons ever given, which is that in the Gospel today –which relates it all in a mere seven verses.

But before we do so, I want to notice something more telling than merely the sensational curiosity of those dark episodes of history I have just sketched, for they prompt a question about why we find stories and narrative so engaging – even in the briefest of forms.

I call to mind here Galen Strawson[1] who in a recent book of essays with the engaging title,  Things that bother me, includes a biographical chapter. This starts conventionally enough with his school days,  after which,  in the words of Kieran Setiya[2] his prose:

 “ shivers into fragments: taking LSD, travelling from Turkey to Iran, listening to Bob Dylan and to Berg’s Lyric Suite” before in a final scene, “ filling a blue mini (car) with beech leaves”

Of this sequence of scenes, this commentator observes:

“The writing is sparse but eloquent, emotionally honest, bright with sensation.

What do these episodes have to do with one another?

In the midst of beauty, it feels unimportant to ask.”

Does it really?  The comment alludes to a notorious thesis maintained by Galen Strawson which holds it to be a “fallacy of our age” that meaningful lives require “narrativity” when, so far as he is concerned,  we could live far better instead, and more simply,  in a constant present.

This is a very curious idea but I suggest illuminating in its error.

Think for a moment about the pieces of music we are hearing today in the Mass setting (Britten) and motets.   It is indeed an interesting question to ask just what it means to speak of the “now” in a work of music.   Just what is the present moment in listening to music?

Is it ever really possible to live in an evanescent moment and truly to hear music (even in one’s mind)?

I would venture to say no, and that this tells us, that as incarnate beings it is impossible to hear music without it being sequential  and that in hearing it we must hold in tension the immediate present or ‘now’ with what has gone before, in order to hear music as such at all.

Just think of a solo Cello suite and the way in which one seems to hear chords and even more than one melodic line even, in fact they are merely ‘implied through the mind’ as one does not at any one given moment hear such complexities,  thus demonstrating that the effect achieved relies upon the interplay of the mind and the memory which is where the music is actually experienced.

But now you may wonder why I touch upon this.

The answer is that not only do we,  as humans live our lives sequentially, but we need something parallel to my point about music – namely a narrative within which and through which to order our lives, in fact I suggest  we actually need a meta-narrative as well,  within which to frame our lives as a whole if they are to have truly deep, which is to say adequate, meaning.
And that takes us back to that Synagogue, all those centuries ago in Nazareth, of which we heard in the Gospel. This was the first Sermon by Jesus Christ himself in the Synagogue of his home village of Nazareth where he had grown up.

It is important to understand the context for we know that before Jesus returned to Nazareth there had already been a quite extensive ministry in Jerusalem where he had

  • cast the money-changers from the Temple,
  • performed a number of miracles,
  • met Nicodemus, and then en route to Galilee
  • the woman of Samaria at the well.

Reports of all this would have preceded him and would have evoked the curiosity of the Nazarenes’ as everyone gathered in the village synagogue, where he would so often have been seated as a child before.

The service itself would have opened with prayer and psalms and would have featured two readings, one from the Law, one from the Prophets. It would have been at that point that Jesus rose, signifying His intent to be reader of the Prophetic portion in the scroll.

Having read standing, in reverence for the Scripture, Jesus we are told then resumed His seat in the way appropriate to the status of one who is to teach, and one having authority.

At that point, the implicit drama suddenly reaches its peak, as his opening sentence made the sweeping assertion that the great prophetic words which He had been reading had now been fulfilled in him.

In short a world historical moment had arrived for his  was a claim of startling audacity : “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

It was too, we may note, an emphatic and unhesitating assertion of his central claim as to who he was and what he represented.

This was definitely not a situation where people around him came up with ideas by way of response to his enigmatic but profound impact – a point worth keeping clear at a time now, when there are many who want to move the interpretation of Jesus away from what he said about himself to the interpretation made of him by those who came to follow him (which would be inherently more speculative).

This difference has significance that should not be overlooked.

There is a current tendency to move away from the “downward Christology” represented by what Jesus himself asserted to the “upward Christology” of what his hearers came to suppose about him instead. This reflects a wider tendency in our culture to suppose that meaning is ultimately something we each create and in a sense impose upon the world. – much as  “Beauty” is sometimes said to lie “in the eye of the beholder”

The universalization of this constructivist idea risks generating reliance on an inadequately examined wider theory, in which the entire world of our experience and meaning is turned into a drama comprised of choice: where reality is a kind of fiction, a world where matters of fact and of things-being-the-case become increasingly hazy and malleable.

On the one hand, this leads to a deep vagueness, and on the other, to a world where claims become ineradicably contestable with seemingly little clarity as to what would, or even could, conclusively settle conflicting claims (for example in the presumptive absence of access to the way things are). Increasing stridency in advancing incommensurable claims is naturally one result, while rising potential for conflict is another.

Though there is however one area where we do not seem ever to imagine that we could behave like this (which is surely significant) and that is in regard to money. 

I must not digress, but consider what would happen if I were to go in to my bank and say that as part of my self-understanding, from henceforth in my overdraft account 1 + 1 would equal 0.5 while in my deposit account, 1 + 1 would equal 4, and that accordingly, in order to respect my self-understanding the bank should henceforth recognise a 50% decrease in by indebtedness and a 50 % increase in my overall worth.

I have a suspicion that my presentation would not end well and that a harsh assertion of what would be termed ‘financial realities’ would probably be made,  leaving my happy notions of constructivist banking rather battered and bruised![3]

But returning to Jesus’ sermon we may note that in addition to the bold clarity with which Jesus begins to set out as straight facts who and what he really was, there were also the deep truths presented in what he said regarding us and our destiny aside from the redemption offered in Christ. These frame then, by way of contrast, the radiant hopes he unveils for mankind and the possibilities before us, in him.

Elsewhere, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advances an authoritative proclamation of the laws of the new kingdom that is his, And asserts that these claims supersede the ancient law of Israel, and the covenant made by God with Moses.

His new dispensation presents a foundation, on which whoever builds shall never be put to confusion. For Jesus presents himself as the Son of God whose work is nothing less than the salvation of the world.

All this is made possible by virtue of who he is and the fact that, 

‘He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,’

The revelation he makes of Himself is the Revelation of God,

His death is for the life of the world;

and in worshipping him we worship God;

when we trust in Him we trust in God;

when we obey Him we obey God.

Cumulatively, this asserts that as a matter of fact the nature and perfection of what was made manifest in the flesh, in the person of Christ, was such as could only adequately be captured by accepting the fullness of the claims he himself set out so clearly: and by recognising that he was God in human flesh, which is to say a fully human person who was also divine.

This was indeed a tremendous claim whose weight can be seen in the response (later on in the Gospel)  of those who were horrified by it and promptly proclaimed  ‘This man blasphemeth’ even while the others understood and confessed  ‘Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

Consistently here in the Gospel thus, we,  just like his original hearers are presented with our Lord’s conception of himself and of his own work.

Jesus, as the Christ,  lays claim to the possession of the fullness of the divine Spirit:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.’ And he lays claim  to be the Messiah of the Old Covenant, with all the fullness of meaning, and dignity which that entailed. He makes a direct claim to be the fulfilment of all the previous prophetic utterances to Israel.

Thus was presented a revelation and Epiphany in that small synagogue at Nazareth, that was also addressed to the church and the world for all time to come, for Jesus stands as the centre-point and pivot on which the history of the world turns; with all that was before converging in Him,  and all that was after flowing from Him.

No wonder then, that of those who understood the Bible states ‘They that went before, and they that followed after, cried,  Hosanna! blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord.’

But there is too here, in the message of today’s Gospel, another and contrasting strand which speaks to the sad nature of the unredeemed human condition. It is the depth of the understanding of this that helps us to see what, alone, we would be unable to remedy.

For we are all in various ways suffering the consequences of our fallen –which is to say sinful– human condition –aside that is from God’s mercy.

It is sin that impoverishes, while no one who possesses Him, by love, trust, and conformity of will is truly poor, in the deepest sense for whatever else one has, whatever else one lacks, our true wealth lies in God.

It is sin too that ultimately leaves people captive through our own misguided desires, whereas even when faced with physical constraint we can never ultimately be captive in the spirit under God.

Our passions, our self-will and our habits may enslave us — but God frees us.

Sin imprisons by distracting us from our true treasure or by misleading us into pursuit of a vain substitute when we effectively worship this or that false idol.

Christ comes to us today therefore, just as he did in Nazareth, not only to proclaim, but to bestow, the blessings of which He speaks.

He not only comes to

  • ‘preach good tidings to the poor,’ but also
  • ‘to heal the broken-hearted,’ and
  • ‘to set at liberty all them that are bound.’

He is the good news he proclaims and is thus the Gospel which he utters.

He does not merely proclaim the favour of heaven, but actually brings

  • ‘the acceptable year of the Lord.’

Jesus does not here detail the means by which He is about to bring about the golden year, the year of Jubilee, for ‘that lies in

  • His death on the Cross for the abolition of sin,
  • His Resurrection for the abolition of death;
  • His reign in glory for the bestowal on all sinful and bruised souls
  • of the Spirit of healing and of righteousness.

It is here that we need to recall that opening point about narrative and the need for a meta-narrative in which to frame the meaning of life itself – and our individual lives–  as something inherently narrative in character, such that we would be impoverished to try and live it only in the ‘moment’ of Galen Strawson.

Here we arrive at terrain traversed by Erich Auerbach, in his famous book Mimesis[4] in the domain of aesthetic realism – for, in that work he sets the stage for a powerful argument to the effect that it is through the Christian gospel, in which God incarnates himself (amidst)  the humble and destitute, that the affinity between what St Bernard calls ‘sublimitas’ and ‘humilitas’ is established. Thus Christianity, with its reversals of rich and poor, and superficial inversion of the Messianic kingly concept,  shatters the classical equipoise between high and low. But it is also deeply realist, for, in its grasp of the quotidian and demotic it gets to the heart of things and anticipates the philosophical perspective in which true knowledge is knowledge of the underlying mechanism of things.

What lies behind realism is thus in a deep way nothing less than Revelation itself.

Auerbach might have quoted Matthew 25 here, which has the Son of Man coming again to judge the living and the dead, and the Gospel of St Luke today, where the cosmic metaphysical grandeur of God incarnate in human form,  through his sacrifice making redemption available to all,  is not left as some remote and abstract matter. Rather salvation and indeed damnation are integrated into  “such embarrassingly quotidian matters” as one offended commentator put it (Eagleton)  as feeding  the hungry and visiting the sick and setting the captive free.

Thus is Salvation, in Christian tradition, an ethical and indeed societal matter and not a merely cultic one for it is framed by the deep understanding of a realist narrative of truth.

How apt in the face of such awe inspiring disclosure as the Christian Epiphany then is the  understated response of Christ’s  hearers in Nazareth who wondered at the ‘words of grace’ and a narrative wherein

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

AMEN.


[1] The analytical philosopher and son of P. F. Strawson, the late Waynfleet Professor of Metaphysics.

[2] “Storied Career Thoughts of a philosopher of narrativity” London Review of Books, 2018.

[3] Then again, I suppose it is possible that this particular bank manager might have been so blessed as to study a modicum of philosophy and therefore respond with a more creative account of my difficulty, than a crude and harsh assertion that I had parted company with reality or was indeed simply out of my mind. For example he might have been non-realist but coherentist banker.

This sophisticate could then say that he had no wish to make any claims about the nature of reality, be it of the financial or any other kind, but merely to say that I was simply neglecting to play by the rules of the game we had agreed upon when I opened the account.

According to those rules, (entirely regardless of whether or not the many hundreds of pages it took Bertrand Russel to establish in the Principia Mathematica that 1 + 1 = 2 had in fact established an objective reality)  I had agreed that for the purpose of my banking game with the bank that this was how things would be for the purposes of my account.  

In this way he could shrink from a claim to objectivity or mathematical Platonism,  by saying this issue turned merely upon an instance of subjectively agreed coherence but use that intersubjective position to deny claims of mere relativism.

[4] Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature