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Tuesday in Whitsun Week

GRANT, we beseech thee, merciful God, that thy Church, being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Spirit, may manifest thy power among all peoples, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Readings below: Acts viii. 14. & St. John x. 1.

I am the door of the sheep

Jesus uses similitudes in several places in the Scriptures to describe who he is. In our Gospel today he says he is the "door of the sheep". We must first understand the shepherd of the 1st Century to be able to clearly comprehend these verses. In a village, a shepherd would put his sheep in a pen. When he came to get them, he would go to the porter who guarded the pen and be allowed in, and call out his sheep who would respoond to his voice. In the pastures, the shepherd would gather his sheep together in the evening and often place them into some sort of a pen or enclosure. This could have been a natural enclosure. Then he would lie down across the opening and the sheep would not go out. If they tried they would wake the shepherd. The other important characteristic of the shepherd is that his sheep followed him. He did not drive the sheep with a dog as is seen in modern times, but led them, and the sheep knew the voice of their shepherd and distinguish it from all others. He lived with his flock and was their guardian.

Jesus goes on to describe the importance of this similitude. He is the only way that anyone shall be admitted to the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who recognize his voice can follow him, and he will lead them into heaven. He concludes by promising that he will give his followers abundant life.

There are some other places in the Scripture were Jesus uses the door to describe the way into heaven. One is Luke 13:23, in which he says that one must enter through the straight gate, and that the master of the house will stand at the door to allow those in whom he knows. Again in Revelation 3:20 Jesus says he stands at the door and knocks, and that if any man opens the door to him he will enter in with fellowship.

Our epistle reading this day demonstrates this teaching. The Samaritans had received the Word of the Lord, and a baptism, but had not received the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are not told the details, but evidently the Apostles knew that the conversion was inadequate. They personally went to the Samaritans and laid hands on them and the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit. The reading also shows the actions of the Apostles in carrying out Jesus' command on Ascension Day to go into Samaria to preach the Gospel. The Apostles had to overcome their bias against these people, whose worship was considered corrupt, and accepted them into the new Church.

Jesus is the door to heaven. He is the only way. On the Last Day he will call out his elect and they will follow him into heaven. After you have accepted Jesus into your life, he will come in to you and be in communion with you. Through your walk with him day-by-day you will come to know him as a sheep comes to know his shepherd - you will know his voice.



Acts viii. 14.

WHEN the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
St. John x. 1.

VERILY, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice; and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

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Monday in Whitsun Week
Cornelius the Centurion

SEND, we beseech thee, Almighty God, thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, that he may direct and rule us according to thy will, comfort us in all our afflictions, defend us from all error, and lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the same Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.

Readings see below: Acts x. 34 & St. John iii. 16

Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

Today's reading from Acts begins with the scripture from which the motto of the order, Fear God and do what is right is derived. The entire 10th Chapter of Acts tells this amazing story. St. Peter, leader of the disciples, and Cornelius, a Centurion of the Italian Cohort located at Caesarea, have a rendezvous with destiny that begins the process of building a Universal Church. It is a process that is not the work of Peter or Cornelius, but of God through the inspiration and intercession of the Holy Spirit.

First God visited Cornelius and told him he was favored because of his devout actions. Cornelius was a God-fearing righteous man who supported the worship of the local Jews and made contributions to the needy. God had admired his righteousness, and had called him out to be the first Gentile to become a member of Christ's Church. But there was a problem here. Cornelius was not a Jew, not even a proselyte. He probably ate "unclean" foods and did not observe any of the Mosaic Code concerning purity. He, therefore, was himself "unclean" to any Jew. No matter, God instructed him to send for Peter who was in Jappa. Cornelius obeyed and sent two of his servants and a devout soldier to get Peter.

The next day while these servants traveled to Jappa, God visited Peter who was in prayer on his rooftop at noon. God caused him to become hungry, and then placed him in a trance. He showed him a vision of "unclean" animals, which were proscribed to the Jews by the Mosaic Code. He told Peter to kill and eat the animals. Peter responded that he had never eaten anything common or unclean. God admonished him saying, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common." Three times God spoke to Peter and then the sheet was lifted back up into heaven. After this Peter was full of doubt. God had shocked and confused Peter to the core of his beliefs. He had challenged his sense of what was "right". He had established a new Law that superceded the Mosaic Code. It reflected the lesson that Jesus taught in Gospels, that it is not what you put in your mouth that makes you unclean, but rather what comes out of your heart.

Just at that moment, Cornelius' party arrives at Simon the Tanner's gate and calls out seeking whether Peter was there. God intervenes again, and interrupts Peter's thoughts about the sheet and "unclean" animals. He tells Peter that three men seek him and they come from Cornelius, and that he must go with them fearing nothing, for God himself has called them. They confirm what God has told Peter, and tell him that Cornelius has been visited by angel of God who told him to get Peter. Now Peter, no doubt amazed at these occurrences, invites these Gentiles into his home to spend the night, and rest for the journey they will take tomorrow. He is beginning to understand the vision. These men are not "unclean"; God himself has called them. No doubt he learned much that evening of Cornelius' reputation and actions in Caesarea.

The next day Peter with some of his fellow believers, and the visitors, return to Caesarea, and when they arrive at the house, Cornelius greets them and falls to his knees to worship Peter. Peter pulls him up (therefore touching a Gentile); he tells Cornelius that he is a man just like the Centurion, and should not be worshipped. As they entered the house chatting, Peter noted the large number of friends and family that Cornelius had gathered to meet this stranger. Now there are more, not only Cornelius and his three servants, but his entire household and more - all Gentiles. Cornelius tells of his angelic experience, and that he has assembled his household to hear the message the angel said would come.

Peter, with the power of the Holy Spirit, preaches one of the most powerful sermons of the New Testament. A sermon that sets the new order for the new Church. He explains that he, as a Jew, was not to associate with Gentiles. However, God had shown him that he should call NO MAN common or unclean. God, recognizes the Good man of any nation, and accepts him. Peter then preached the Gospel Jesus had commanded him to preach, and at the end the Holy Ghost fell upon all the Gentiles that heard the sermon. Cornelius and his household began to speak in tongues and prophesy and praise God. Peter and his friends were amazed that these Gentiles had received the gift of the Holy Spirit and immediately ordered that they be baptized and made members of the Church.

Our Gospel message today begins with one of the most popular verses in the entire Bible: John 3:16. It is the message that has reassured Christians all through the ages, God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. God loved the whole world and all that are in it. His blessing are for all, not just the Jews. His Gospel is to be preached throughout the world, and it started on that long ago day in the city of Caesarea with an officer of the Roman army and his household, a simple fisherman turned Evangelist, and the Holy Spirit in the midst of them.

Peter and his friends remained in Caesarea for a little while, no doubt instructing Cornelius and his friends in the Gospel and how Jesus had fulfilled the Scriptures. By tradition Cornelius became the leader of the Church in Caesarea and continued his devout work in the community and in building the new Church.



Acts x. 34

THEN Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) that word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

St. John iii. 16

GOD so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Scripture from 1928 Book of Common Prayer

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commonly called Whitsunday

O GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

This Collect is to be said daily throughout Whitsun Week.

Acts ii. 1. St. John xiv. 15.

We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God

They all heard the message of the Apostles in their own tongues. This was the first miracle of the New Church. The Church was truly formed on the Day of Pentecost. On that Day, God sent his Holy Spirit to rest on the disciples so as to teach them the Truth and inspire and embolden them to preach the Gospel to all men. The devout Jews and proselytes who gathered there that day from around the world were amazed and marveled at the miracle of the disciples speaking in different languages. There were others there that day who did not hear the message, but rather what they considered to be gibberish. They accused the Apostles of being drunk. I wonder if they were a part of God's elect, or if their ears were closed by their unbelief?

The Feast of Pentecost originated with the Jewish faith and was called the feast of Weeks (Shavuot) as it occurred exactly seven weeks after Passover. It was a time when Israel commemorated the Ten Commandments "Zeman Matan Toratenu". On this Pentecost the Disciples taught the law as revealed through Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the law. They were able to do so through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The miracle of Pentecost was a sign and symbol of God's grace. Jesus had told his Disciples on the day of his Ascension that they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit in a short while, and that they would receive the power to preach the Gospel throughout the world. Now on the Festival of Pentecost, Jesus keeps his promise; God enables the Disciples to speak in the very language of the foreign Jews. He strengthens them to leave the security of the room in which they waited, and step out before the crowds to proclaim God's Good News. They did so boldly, without any fear of the consequences from Rome or the Temple. But the speaking in tongues was perhaps not the biggest miracle that day...

Perhaps the biggest miracle was in the spirit coming to rest on 3,000 of the listeners as they hear the Word and believed in their hearts. The Book of Acts says they were "pricked in their heart". Have you ever felt that pricking sensation? You hear something from Scripture and it has a special affect on you and you are physically and emotionally moved by it, even compelled to act on it? They asked Peter what they could do, and his response has been the formula for initiation in the Church ever since: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Peter's instructions echoed the words of our Lord's command upon his Ascension, and they apply today as much as they did on that Day of Pentecost.



Acts ii. 1.

WHEN the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

St. John xiv. 15.

JESUS said unto his disciples, If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.

Additional Reading

Old Testament - Numbers 11:24-30

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again. Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, "My lord Moses, stop them!" But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!" And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

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Yesterday, Saturday, I was privileged to attend a special ceremony with friends at a local Church. The occasion was the dedication and setting aside of a new flagpole in front of the Church that sits on one of the major highways coming into our little town.

We began the service with words from Scripture and were exhorted by the pastor to guard the freedoms we have, freedoms that are not really granted or ensured by government, but rather which are inalienable rights we have as humans because we are God's creation. He reminded us that our Christian forefathers had included these rights in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution because of their foundation in faith. Our pastor also cautioned us that today those who would like to remove recognition of God and the symbols of Christianity from every public forum weaken the protection of those rights in our society.

We concluded our service with the hoisting of the Stars and Strips and the Christian Flag, recitation of the Pledge, and singing the National Anthem. Finally a plaque was unveiled revealing the name of the Senior Elder of the Church who was honored that day by his family and friends - a man of faith and a patriot who had served in the Army Air Corps in World War II rising to the rank of Sergeant. A Christian Soldier who continues to faithfully serve his God and Country. Thanks be to God for people who treasure their freedoms and honor those who stand in harms way to protect them.

ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Sunday After Ascension Day

O GOD, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven; We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Readings Below: 1 St. Peter iv. 7 St. John xv. 26,

be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer

Peter warns that the end of things is near, and implores his listeners to be sober, and watch unto prayer. The NIV renders this verse as "be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray". Peter puts the faithful on alert - a warning is given that they must keep the vigil and be prepared for the day of the Lord. This verse provides guidance for us today as well, for we do not know when the Lord shall return. As Jesus said only the Father knows that. Therefore, as Christians, we are to remain ready at all times, and prepared for his coming.

In the verses immediately proceeding this, Peter exhorts his listeners to live for God rather than evil human desires. He gives examples of living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and detestable idolatry. He says that the world looks at the Christians as odd for their sobriety and heaps abuse on them. Little has changed today; Christians who discriminate based on the behaviors Peter listed are often disparaged.

Next Peter tells his listeners the right way to live. First be sober [Sophroneo], serious, wise, in your right mind. Have the right assessment of yourself. Be objective and rational in your appraisal of your world. Being right minded requires clear thinking, judgement, wisdom, and justice.

Secondly, watch [Nepho], that is be calm, collected, sober, temperate, dispassionate, and circumspect. These attributes will enable you to pray in a manner that is pleasing to God. Perhaps more importantly, they will enable you to hear God when he answers your prayers. If you are not in control and alert, it will be very difficult to discern the will of God, and the right thing to do.

The New Testament Centurions may provide for us an example of sobriety and watch, "The centurions mentioned in the New Testament are uniformly spoken of in terms of praise, whether in the Gospels or in the Acts. It is interesting to compare this with the statement of Polybius (vi 24), that the centurions were chosen by merit and so were men remarkable not so much for their daring courage as for their deliberation, constancy, and strength of mind." [Dr. Maclear's NT History].

Finally, Peter tells his listeners what things they should be doing, as compared with the excesses of the world. These include a having deep love for one another, hospitality, serving others with whatever skills you have, speaking good things and doing good things according to the will of God, so that in all things God may be praised.

Jesus, just before his ascension, told the disciples to go the Jerusalem and wait there and he would send the Holy Spirit to them to prepare them for their evangelical mission. He also warned them that the world would hate them for their cause. No doubt that during the 10 days after the Ascension, Peter as a leader of the disciples, lived what he preached in his letter - self-control, rational thinking, and love. The disciples were encouraged by the words of their Lord, and marveled at his glorious ascension and the promise of the angels that he would return. We, likewise, wait on the 2nd coming of the Lord Jesus, and like the apostles are called upon to live a life of moderation and self-control, to use all our skills to think rationally and objectively so that our minds are clear, and to practice our faith by our love for our neighbors.

Hymn Holy Spirit, God of Love


1 St. Peter iv. 7.

THE end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

St. John xv. 26, and part of Chap. xvi.

WHEN the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.

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Ascension Day

GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Readings below: Acts i.1 St. Luke xxiv. 49.

Ye shall receive power

The Day of Ascension marks the end of the 40 days that Jesus walked with his Disciples after the Resurrection. It always falls on the Thursday 10 days before Pentecost. During those 40 days, he revealed many things about the Kingdom of God. At one point he breathed on them and conveyed the Holy Spirit to them. Now, at Bethany, he meets with them for the last time and tells them they should wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father -- the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He tells that in not too many days they shall receive power. Then, with his hands raised up, he blesses them for the last time and ascends into heaven, and is taken up in a cloud.

The power that will come is for a specific purpose -- to spread the Good News of the Salvation of Jesus Christ. The apostles are commissioned to go not only throughout the land of the Jews, but to the ends of the earth preaching the Gospel witnessing all that they had see Jesus say and do. We have the account of that witness in the Gospels and epistles.

Today, if you are reading this homily on the Internet, then you are part of a worldwide revolution that has been called the Information Age that grows exponentially. We, who have inherited the promise of power that Jesus gave to the Apostles, have the ability to reach out to every corner of the earth to tell the Good News of Jesus' love and redemption. We do not need expensive broadcast equipment -- just a keyboard, a computer connected to the Internet, a knowledge of the Gospel, and a witness of the love of Jesus. We are limited only by our own imagination. As the collect says, we may in heart and mind ascend to be with him, be inspired by him, and continually dwell with him - and we may share this experience with the world instantly.

And what is the Good News we shall share? His death, resurrection, ascension, and coming again: and that Salvation is through the Lord Jesus. The angles told the Disciples that Jesus would return again in glorious power, in the same manner as he had ascended. This was indeed Good News, and the Disciples received it with much rejoicing going daily to the Temple to praise and glorify God. And we rejoice too, with each and every Lord's Supper our liturgy affirms his ascension, "having in remembrance...his glorious ascension". Likewise our creeds affirm that he ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Keep these truths close to you. Our Lord ascended to his throne in glory to be seated at the right-hand side of the Father. There, he is our Advocate and Mediator. At the end time he shall return to this world and gather up the elect to rule with him. The Good and Faithful shall ascend with him into heaven and reign there with him. But, as our creed today [1] admonishes us, we must "keep the Faith whole and undefiled." For all "shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting : and they that have done evil into everlasting fire."

[1]In the original Prayer Book, it was required that the Confession of our Christian Faith: commonly called The Creed of St. Athanasius, be recited on this day instead of the other creeds

Hymn: Hail the Day that Sees Him Arise

Acts i. 1.

THE former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so came in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

St. Luke xxiv. 49.

JESUS said, Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.

Psalm 24. Domini est terra.

THE earth is the LORD'S, and all that therein is; * the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein.
For he hath founded it upon the seas, * and stablished it upon the floods.
Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? * or who shall rise up in his holy place?
Even he that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; * and that hath not lift up his mind unto vanity, nor sworn to deceive his neighbour.
He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, * and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is the generation of them that seek him; * even of them that seek thy face, O God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; * and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory? * It is the LORD strong and mighty, even the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; * and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory? * Even the LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory.

Psalm 47. Omnes gentes, plaudite.

CLAP your hands together, all ye peoples: * O sing unto God with the voice of melody.
For the LORD is high, and to be feared; * he is the great King upon all the earth.
He shall subdue the peoples under us, * and the nations under our feet.
He shall choose out an heritage for us, * even the excellency of Jacob, whom he loved.
God is gone up with a merry noise, * and the LORD with the sound of the trump.
O sing praises, sing praises unto our God; * O sing praises, sing praises unto our King.
For God is the King of all the earth: * sing ye praises with understanding.
God reigneth over the nations; * God sitteth upon his holy seat.
The princes of the peoples are joined unto the people of the God of Abraham; * for God, which is very high exalted, doth defend the earth, as it were with a shield.

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The Fifth Sunday after Easter
Rogation Sunday

O LORD, from whom all good things do come; Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Readings below: St. James i. 22, St. John xvi. 23

Be ye Doers of the Word

In our Gospel message, Jesus assured his disciples that whatever they might ask in his name, the Father would give them. What shall we ask? Our collect gives us a perfect example. In it the worshiper asks that God would inspire us to think things that are Good and then through the guidance of God to do that Good - that is: "Be ye doers of the word"

St. James in the epistle admonishes his listeners that simply hearing, and agreeing with the Word while you nominally participate in worship is an empty faith - worse, it is vanity because you suppose yourself to be something other than you are. No, he says that true religion is in the daily walk with Jesus as we journey through this life and taking some action. The operative word here in St. James is DO! True religion is in the doing. Keep his commandments close to your heart and seek his will in all you DO. St. James summarizes his admonition by giving two separate examples of "pure religion." First, serve those who are in need. Second, keep yourself from being contaminated by the evils of this world.

In thinking of this passage, I appreciate the way professional people speak of practicing their professions in accordance with the various laws and creeds that they have. They, in their endeavors, encounter new and challenging situations that have no clear-cut answers. They must use their talents to try to find solutions, while at the same time adhering to their professional standards. Likewise, Christians are called upon to practice their faith. Our code is the Summary of the Law, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and soul and mind, and .... thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself"

Do: The motto of the Order, from St. Peter's statement in Acts Chapter 10, is "Fear God and Do What is Right". The Order uses the Latin from the Vulgate translation of the Bible "Timet Deus et Operatur Iustitiam." The Latin word used here for "do" is "operatur". It sounds a lot like our English word of operate, or operation; that is to "work" or "do", likewise the Vulgate word for "right" is Iustitiam, which sound a lot like our "justice" and the adverb "justly". So how can you practice your faith every day? By always striving to DO the Right thing. By treating your neighbor in the same way as you would like to be treated: fairly and justly. In doing this work, St. James tells us we will be blessed in our deeds. He also give us an example of what we should not do: gossip. He says that a man who seems religious, but "bridleth not his tongue", is one who's religion is in vain.

Look into the perfect law of liberty The Summary of the Law is a part of the Order's Rule and Vow. It is the perfect law of liberty. By following the Summary of the Law that Jesus gave us, we are freed to do his will. As Jesus said in several places, the Pharisees practiced all the special rules they had invented to complement the Law, and in the process, failed to follow the Spirit of the Law. Jesus promised to write the Law on the hearts of his followers so that they could live faithfully without a heavy burden of liturgical rules.

...and continueth therein St. James says that the believers must continue in the faith. It is not enough to confess it and go one's way. We must abide in the Body of Christ, being continually renewed in the Word, sacraments, and fellowship of the saints. In the Order our Rule calls for us to Pray without ceasing, that is to remain in constant communion with our Lord. In following this Rule, we will indeed "continueth therein."

St. James i. 22.

BE ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

St. John xvi. 23.

VERILY, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

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The Fourth Sunday after Easter

O ALMIGHTY God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Readings below: St. James i. 17. St. John xvi. 5.

Fix your heart on Jesus

In a mixed-up world where what is seemingly and Scripturally wrong is declared right, and where a permissive culture speaks of the necessity to employ situational ethics as a standard rather than an exception, today’s collect is especially beneficial to the believers. In this chaotic state where ancient values are discarded as rubbish, our collect tells us that God alone can order the unruly wills of men. To strengthen ourselves, we need only to look to God’s Holy Word for our comfort. By fixing our hearts on His Word and Commandments, we will find true joy, peace, and the Comfort of his Spirit.

St. James tells us that by focusing on His Word, and receiving it into our hearts, souls, and minds, that we shall be saved. God has given us his commandments because he loves us. He wishes us to live a good and full life, free of sin and worry. The way to that peaceful state is through the Word of God, the Word made flesh, Jesus the Christ. In every circumstance then, St. James admonishes us to exercise patience and faith.

He says to be swift to hear. That is being a good listener. Listen first and foremost to the Word of God -- God’s good gift to us, unchanging, immutable, and true. Hear that Word, understand it, believe it, and make it a part of your very being engrafted into your soul. Second, listen to the voices around you and evaluate them. Do the voices complement God’s Word? Do they magnify His Glory? Do they reveal the Wisdom of God, or the wisdom of man? Do the voices stand in contradiction to His commandments?

St James also tells us we should be slow to speak. This advice parallels the advice of the wise men of old in the wisdom writings such as Proverbs. By holding our tongues and our judgements, we may better hear the truth. By exercising patience we open our hearts to the Spirit of Truth. As St John says in today’s Gospel, he will show you things to come, he will guide you in all Truth, for the Holy Spirit speaks the Will and Wisdom of God Almighty and thereby glorifies the risen Christ

Finally, St. James tells us to be slow to wrath, and that the wrath of man works unrighteousness. Our anger is more likely to lead us into sin. We are likely to act and speak in ways when we are angry that we will later regret. Again, the secret is to "wait on the Lord." He is all powerful, all knowing, and through his Holy Spirit he will guide the righteous in what they should do. As the Gospel says, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, whose will is that we should find Joy in this life, Grant that we may fix our hearts on Jesus, and depend on the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us, through Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and evermore. Amen

Hymn: Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

The Epistle. St. James i. 17.

EVERY good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

The Gospel. St. John xvi. 5.

JESUS said unto his disciples, Now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

Psalm 141

O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
keep watch over the door of my lips!
Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies!

Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it.
Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.
When their judges are thrown over the cliff,
then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant.
As when one plows and breaks up the earth,
so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol.

But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord;
in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!
Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me
and from the snares of evildoers!
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I pass by safely.

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The Third Sunday after Easter

ALMIGHTY God, who showest to them that are in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness; Grant unto all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's Religion, that they may avoid those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

READINGS: see below: 1 St. Peter ii. 11. St. John xvi. 16.

Your heart shall rejoice

Today's collect asks God to show those who are in error the right way, and to grant to all Christians avoidance of evil and following of goodness. It seems to me this is a very appropriate collect for the Church today, with so many evil incidents and departures from Scriptural values.

In the 1st Letter of St John. He exhorts his readers to resist all the temptations of the flesh that would lead them into sin. He goes on to tell them the right things to do, specifically to Honor all men, love the brotherhood, fear God, and honor the king. Let us take a look at each of these briefly:

Honor all men. All men are created in the image of God. When he had created man in the beginning, He said it was "very good". In the Army there is a key value of Respect, and soldiers are trained to respect every human, not just their comrades. The codification of this, in respect in the enemy, is the Geneva Convention. It specifies how forces are to treat enemy prisoners of war and civilians. It is a result of the work of Christian men who understood this basic principal of the Bible. Christians should respect the dignity of every human being. In the 10th Chapter of Acts, Peter, after observing Cornelius and his family said, "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. " The law of our land proscribes discrimination based on race, creed, nationality, color, and to a large extent, gender. However, we should not honor men's dishonorable behavior, words, and acts. We are also called upon to discriminate against evil.

Love the Brotherhood. Jesus told his disciples, "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." Your fellows in Christ are your brothers and sisters, your family. Jesus said, For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother."

Fear God. The Greek word used here for Fear is Phobeo. In Strong's it is defined as "to put to flight by terrifying. To be struck with fear, to be seized with alarm... those startled by a strange sight or circumstance ... struck with amazement... to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience." In the order of centurions, the motto is "Fear God and do what is right." In a world where semantics, the study of the meaning of words and their affect has become some important there are those who are offended by this "Fear the Lord." The connotation to them is negative, and it is difficult approach this concept. It is not a very popular theme for sermons because of this. Nevertheless, any student of the Bible knows it to be a recurring theme from Genisis to Revelation. From the time that Adam and Eve stood naked in the Garden of Eden and hid from the Lord, until St. John was amazed and awe struck in his vision of the Last Days, the Bible emphasizes this one aspect of our relationship with the Almighty God. Everyone fears something. If you fear man or things, and not God, then you need to reevaluate what and who are important. Now a Fear of the Lord does not mean that you are afraid he is going to harm you, any more than you might have thought your mother or father were going to kill you. Indeed, perhaps the best way to look at a fear of the Lord is the way you look at a loving parent who expected you to be good. Your love, respect, and fear of the authority of that parent positively affected your behavior. The Fifth Commandment is to honor Your Father and Mother, to defer to their authority, to obey them. Likewise, if you have children and are striving to bring them up as good Christians, they have a fear and respect for you. Fear is a basic human emotion. God gave us fear to protect and preserve us. There is nothing negative about it; it will save your life. The car decals that say "No Fear" humor me, except for one variation, it said "One Fear".

Honor the king. Peter tells us here that we are to respect civil authority. We are to obey moral laws and fulfil our civic obligations.

In our Gospel, Jesus promises to return to the disciples. He tells them that when He does, they shall rejoice and it will be a joy that no man may take from him. This promise is fulfilled when He sends the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. He emboldens them and they no longer cower hidden from their persecutors. They boldly step forward to proclaim the Good News, fearing no one but their God, and doing good works as led by the Spirit.

The Epistle. 1 St. Peter ii. 11.

DEARLY beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit your-selves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

The Gospel. St. John xvi. 16.

JESUS said to his disciples, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

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