Faith to perceive his glory: Lent II

Almighty God,
whose Son was revealed in majesty
before he suffered death upon the cross,
give us faith to perceive his glory,
that being strengthened by his grace
we may be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Original image available here.

What is faith? I’m currently reading a recent academic article by Timothy Troutner (a doctoral student at Notre Dame) that takes up the question of silence or language in Beatitude. Halfway through he presents an excursus that discusses the linguistic turn that has come to define the postmodern philosophy of Derrida, Wittgenstein and others. Such a turn cannot but lead to despair and nihilistic doubt, because it concludes that all communication is a repeating series of significations that can never achieve a “thing signified” outside of it. Famously (or infamously), il n’y a pas de hors-texte.

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Sermon: Epiphany 5B

St. Stephen’s, Maple; Zoom Eucharist; February 7, 2021

Collects and Readings for the Day:
Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm 147:1-11
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Mark 1:29-39

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.”

There’s an almost-comedic tension running through this first half of the Gospel of Mark, and it’s set up in the reading we heard tonight. Jesus tells us plainly: he came out to “proclaim the message,” to preach and teach the Good News of the Kingdom of God. But Mark’s Gospel doesn’t have time for long, flowing speeches: the story we’re given is one of action, signs, miracles, healings. Jesus moves immediately from scene to scene, from Synagogue to home to countryside, from Galilee to Judea to surrounding Gentile territory and back to Judea—with some silent nights to pray to the Father and catch his breath in the Spirit. Maybe he wants to stop and preach, and in the other Gospel accounts we get to hear what he has to say, but in Mark it seems like all he does is miraculously transform creation, and then move on.

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Sermon: Epiphany 2B

St. Stephen’s, Maple; Zoom Eucharist; January 17, 2021

Collects and Readings for the Day:
1 Samuel 3:1-20
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’”

Silver linings.

I’m not an optimist by nature, which is all the more reason for me to intentionally look for the good in every situation. And I don’t believe God willed this pandemic into being, but I still think it’s helpful to ask why God allowed it, what God is doing with it and despite it. After all, we can only offer God what we have on-hand, and trust Him to make something of it even when we have no clue how or if that’s even possible. So what is God calling us to offer—who is God calling us to be, as we embark on this phase of the journey as it finds us in the year 2021?

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Sermon: Christmas Day Year B

St. Stephen’s, Maple; Zoom Eucharist; December 25, 2020

Collects and Readings for the Day:
Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 98
Hebrews 1:1-4
John 1:1-14

“In these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.”

I speak to you in the name of Christ, the Word made Flesh. Amen

You may have noticed that the Christian Tradition has always had a complicated relationship with the End of Time. Most of the New Testament was written with the view that God’s culmination of history was just around the corner, a perspective that changed dramatically as the centuries wore on and Roman Europe became Medieval Christendom. In times of prosperity, we prefer to emphasize the stability of the here-and-now. We exaggerate Scripture’s promises of blessing to kings and priests, throne and temple, and downplay the impending judgement and consummation of the created order.

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Sermon: Pentecost 24A

November 15, 2020; St. Stephen’s Maple Zoom Eucharist

Readings:
Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

To you I lift up my eyes, to you enthroned in the heavens!

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

This parable. Its interpretation has become more obscure as our cultural context has changed. I can think of two readings that, on the surface, seem diametrically opposed to each other.

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New Testament Apocalypses: Synoptics and Epistles

“Little Apocalypse”: Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-37

In all three Synoptic Gospels, Jesus launches into the “Little Apocalypse” immediately upon predicting the destruction of the Temple. This suggests that the passage was written or included as a response to this very event in 70 CE. This is closer to the “post-facto prediction” that we see in Daniel and Enoch than in Revelation. However, all three occurrences place it at the beginning of Holy Week, shortly after Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple and with the Crucifixion and Resurrection in view: we should keep in mind Jesus’ prediction near the beginning of John’s Gospel, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

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The Four Genres of the Apocalypse: Part Two

St. John immediately departs from the Apocalyptic tradition of pseudonymous centuries-old prediction: the very first verse indicates that Revelation describes “what must soon take place.” While the book does do some future-predicting, this “must soon take place” combined with past-tense narration (in English at least) suggests a preoccupation with present first-century realities in a way that is related to but distinct from what we’ve encountered in this course so far. This focus on the present leads him to explore more universal claims that are as relevant to the twenty-first century as they were to the first.

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The Four Genres of the Apocalypse: Part One

Four genres? Isn’t the Revelation to St. John the Divine a part of the Apocalyptic tradition? Well yes, it is indeed an Apocalypse-proper. It uses many of the images and conventions that we’ve encountered so far in this course: the Heavenly throne room, an angelic guide, the use of animals and even stranger beasts to talk about politics, a heavy dose of the numbers three, six and seven to name a few examples. And it is ultimately about God’s intervention into the created order to bring about the end of history and the birth of a “new heavens and a new earth.” (21:1) But as the pre-eminent and canonical Christian apocalypse, it also consciously recapitulates much of the Christian biblical canon. And it does so by appealing to three other genres (see note 1) that are prominent in Scripture: Epistle, Prophecy and Gospel

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