Sunday, August 23, 2020

 August 23, 2020

The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

(Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20)

Though I have heard this explanation previously, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn wrote about the infinity of God that I think is appropriate for today’s Epistle reading. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!” Anyone who takes some time out of their busy life and allows their mind to wander freely and tries to think about God and who He is, this Epistle passage is very apropos. So, today rather than something to motivate you or teach you about something, this will merely be one of those just fun to think about type of sermons. 

Some of you have heard me remark that the Bible is not about how heaven goes, but how to go to heaven. Think about that a second and let it sink in. No human has been to heaven and been able to come back and write about it (at least proven and aside from Jesus), from a Biblical point of view. However, humans, by interaction from God (and Jesus, who also is God), have been able to write how to get there – how we are to conduct ourselves to get there. Here we are on our learner’s permit, and upon death, we receive our license to heaven – we hope!

Now, let’s get more confusing. 

God is one. And God is three. Mathematically speaking, it doesn’t seem to work. One can never equal three and three can never equal one. 

One plus one plus one equals three. One divided by three equals one-third, not one.

However, maybe we have the wrong equation. God is infinite. You can’t use that which is finite to comprehend the infinite. 

So, if we use the first equation and add the symbol of infinity next to each number, then what happens? (Okay, so if mathematics was your bad subject and I lost you with the first equation, much less with this, I am sorry. Wait for next week’s message.) 

So, now we have one infinity plus one infinity plus one infinity equals three infinities. How big is three infinities? It’s infinity. Three infinities equal one infinity – So three equals one!

For the second equation, using the same infinity symbol addition, one infinity divided by three equals one-third of infinity. What is one-third of infinity? Infinity! 

When we speak of God, we speak of the infinite. And one infinity and three infinities are equal. One-third infinity and one infinity are also equal. 

So, in the realm of God, the realm of the infinite, one does equal three and three equals one. You can never fit the infinite into the finite, and you can never get God inside of your understanding. If you could, then He wouldn’t be God. Then your understanding would be God. But God, by definition, must be greater than your understanding. (It’s why no one can explain the Trinity or how many Angels sit on the head of a pin!)

This should set us all free. We don’t have to figure God out. But there is a way that the finite can understand the infinite. How you ask? Believe! Have faith! 

We can never fully understand or know God, but we do not need to. Jesus made it clear that the fulfillment of the law was complete within Him. His death and resurrection fulfilled all of the law of the prophets. We need not do anything else except – wait for it – Believe in Jesus. What did Jesus say? Love the Lord your God (Matthew 22:37). What else? Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39). And believe in Him (John 3:16).

So, we have a one∞ plus one∞ plus one∞ equals ∞ (infinity). Meaning, love of God (1) plus love of your neighbor (1) plus belief in Jesus (1) equals infinity, or eternal life in heaven.

We have all we need right in that equation. 

God Love You +++

++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

We are beggars …. As we know, in many areas such as ours, places of worship are still restricted from opening due to Covid-19. However, keeping the various expenses, utilities, insurances and the like, remain active and necessary. So, we ask that you keep us in your prayers, but also in your donations if you can. With doors shut, many do not give because they are not physically worshipping, or have limited access to give online, and many other reasons, so please help if you can! You will be in our prayers! God Bless You +++

Sunday, August 16, 2020

August 16, 2020

 August 16, 2020

Assumption of our Lady

(Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10; Luke 1:39-56)

Today we honor our Lady Mary with the Catholic view that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. It is one of those teachings or dogmas that can be strange to non-Catholics. With that said, I thought I would share some thoughts from an apologetic point of view to help us understand why we believe this to be true.

The feast of the Assumption has been a bone of contention between Catholics and non-Catholic traditions for many centuries. From a non-Catholic point of view, if it isn’t in the Bible, then it simply isn’t true. Because this teaching is not specifically mentioned in the New Testament, non-Catholics cannot accept any teachings about God taking our Lady Mary directly into heaven.

The Assumption of Mary teaching states that Mary was taken body and soul into heaven upon her death, with no long period of “sleeping,” nor a grave like others. The feast has been celebrated since the fourth century. 

Sixteenth-century Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, included this feast on a list of liturgical celebrations that should, in his words, “be observed among Evangelical Catholics as a sign of continuity and order.” Martin Luther, considered the founder of the Lutheran Church, left the Catholic Church by nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church in Germany, thus starting the Protestant Reformation and starting the schism of the time.

While non-Catholics generally accept the assumption of Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) and that of the penitent thief (Luke 23:43), since both of these are directly mentioned in the Bible, they shy away from or even oppose suggestions that God also made it possible for Mary, Mother of our Lord, to be taken up to heaven to be with Him.

Cardinal John Henry Newman made four important points appealing to reason for the acceptance of the Assumption of our Lady.

First, he notes that Mary’s Divine Son loved her too much to let her body remain in the grave.

Second, since she was not only dear to our Lord as a mother is dear to a son but also transcendently holy and so overflowing with grace that though she died for a brief time as did our Lord Himself; yet, like Him and by His almighty power, she was raised again from the grave.

Third, the ancient Church records contain no notes of a tomb of Mary. (Meaning the Apostles did not relate verbal Tradition of an actual tomb. Most notably John, whom Jesus places His Mother as John’s mother and in his care – a precursor of Mary becoming the mother of us all.) The early Church was very conscious of the tombs of the Saints; for example, St. Mark speaks of the tomb of St. John the Baptist, St. Peter talks about the sepulcher of David, and great attention is given to the burial spots of Sts. Stephen, Mark, Barnabas, Peter, and Paul. If the Church was that concerned with burial spots of the Saints, how much more would it be concerned with the body of the Mother of our Lord? Evidently, there was no permanent burial and therefore no body.

Fourth, is that since other servants of God have been raised from the grave by the power of God, we can’t suppose our Lord would have granted that privilege to anyone else without also granting it to His own Mother.

Now, I have another thought for you. I will try to make this short, but still clear. 

As Christians, most of us agree with the doctrine of the Trinity (which, I might add, is a word/title of God not actually in the Bible either). We agree in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We agree that the Word became man (Jesus – Son). I think most of us would also agree that God is so pure that we humans could not be in His presence and actually live (this is actually in the Bible!). Therefore, if God, in the second person of the Son, was to be born of a human being as He actually did, then the vessel that He would inhabit during the normal human pregnancy process needed to be pure, or else that chosen human woman would die instantly upon the moment of the Holy Spirit entering her and her being conceived in this way! So, Mary was especially chosen (probably at the beginning of time) to be this vessel and therefore was made pure (I will avoid the topic of Original Sin here, that is another topic) at her conception and Tradition says she remained pure throughout her life (again semi-obvious if God was to enter into her). 

Now, all this said, if God made her so pure – beyond that of any other human except Jesus Himself – then it stands to reason, He would not allow His vessel – His Mother – experience corruption of burial after death. If we can see Elijah and Moses at the Transfiguration of Jesus, both human beings and certainly not pure enough to bear Jesus (gender aside), and thus realize they must be in heaven, then surely His own Mother would enjoy the same!

Saint John Damascene, an outstanding herald of this traditional truth, spoke out with powerful eloquence when he [said], “It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption…. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow…should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.”…

In the life of our Lady, it is natural that her death should not be like that of other humans, since she was accorded a special honor and thus no average human being. Mary died even as our Lord and Savior died, but through the merits of her Son, she also had been saved from the grave.

Therefore, hopefully we can gather all Christians to celebrate Mary’s Assumption into heaven with her Son. 

God Love You +++

++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

Services are canceled, but someone failed to tell that to expenses that still need to be paid, and so we remain beggars. Donate if you can. May God richly bless you for it!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

August 9, 2020

 August 9, 2020

Transfiguration Sunday

(Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Matthew 17:1-9)

Things are not always as they seem. Sometimes, maybe, yes. But not always. The old adage to take time to smell the roses/flowers is something that we should still do today. Too many of us do not do enough of this. Either we are too busy (so we think) or simply do not care. We need experience what is beyond what we see.

Think of our relationships, or actually the lack thereof, of the myriad of people we pass or come in contact with each day. Do we take time to smell the roses of these people – do we take time to learn about them, not just what we see? If we are honest with ourselves and each other, we merely judge the book by the cover, we don’t take time to really see the person as they really are.

In the Middle East desert, one can still view desert dwellers. They will still use tents similar to Old Testament periods. The Tent of Meeting, the tent of the Tabernacle would have looked very similar, probably made of badger’s skin as it was commonly done. Most likely plain and dull appearance from the outside. 

However, once you stepped inside, everything would have appeared much different. The first chamber was called the holy place. In that portion there would be the table of the presence, the altar of incense, and the seven-branched menorah, each of gold and of inestimable value. 

The next chamber would be the holy of holies with the Ark of the Covenant which held the tablets of the Ten Commandments (you know – those things we learned in Sunday school [maybe] and probably can no longer name all ten!). On top of the Ark was the glory of God. God hovered over the Ark. No one could actually touch the Ark and live, because the holy presence of God was too pure for our sinful human touch.

All of this was hidden from the outside and could only be seen if you took the time to go in. So what looked plain, dull, unattractive, and of little worth on the outside turned out to contain the greatest of treasures on the inside. 

Sometimes, in our modern world, we like to be pretentious and make things appear more impressive and attractive on the outside and on the surface than what is really on the inside. The reality is less than the appearance. Those who are humble, or merely being themselves, are less pretentious and maybe not as appealing on the outside and are much more likely to be more beautiful inside. 

We like to experience things that look nice, and sometimes are disappointed. While, we avoid that which does not marvel us on the outside is the greatest treasure that we will miss.

But with God and the ways of righteousness, it’s very different. On the outside and on the surface it tends to look hard and unattractive. So, the way to the cross and of sacrifice, on the outside, looks hard. But the deeper you go, the more beautiful it becomes. The deeper you go, the more treasures you find. 

So too, the deeper you go into prayer and worship, the more awesome it becomes. The deeper you go into His presence, the more glorious it becomes. The deeper you go into the love of God, the more golden it becomes. 

Was it any different for Jesus? In today’s Gospel we read of His transfiguration. The three Apostles with Him must really been in awe of what they were seeing. We can tell this by Peter’s response. He is almost delirious. Keep in mind that prior to this, they have only seen Jesus on the outside! 

Think of a typical man in the Middle East and the dress of the time. We might find it appalling, compared to our “modern” way of dressing. But, that is how Jesus (think God) was dressed while visiting us as a man. The various religious leaders of the time saw Him as nothing more than an average man. Even the disciples to some extent. 

So, here was Jesus transfigured. They get to see Jesus as He truly is on the inside and outside! Remember what Nathanael said? “What good can come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46) However, Jesus was Jesus inside and out all the time, but they refused to see Him, because of their disbelief. His disciples slowly realized who He really is. But many simply closed their minds. We would do the same if we encountered a fellow human being who implied he was the Messiah.

How often do we do the same in our daily lives. Like I mentioned at the beginning, we simply do not take time to smell the roses. We see this magnified in systemic racism. We do the same as we do with the tents - with Jesus. Anyone knows (or should) that skin color, the way we dress, what we live in, or what we drive, yada, yada, yada …. is not the entire picture of a person. It is not what is inside. We should take time to learn what is inside. We will discover some great beauty as well as see we are different, yet the same!

Therefore, we need to go deeper. We need to go inside. We need to go beyond the surface, beyond the appearance, beyond the tent of skins. Both with our fellow humans, but especially with God! When we do, we will discover the treasures and the glory that await only those who dare to go inside! Like our tiny chapel – come inside and be surprised, and worship God while here! Go inside and you will find a treasure.

God Love You +++

++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

Services are canceled, but someone failed to tell that to expenses that still need to be paid, and so we remain beggars. Donate if you can. May God richly bless you for it!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

August 2, 2020

August 2, 2020
The Eighth Sunday after Trinity
(Romans 8:35, 37-39; Matthew 14:13-21)
I wasn’t going to do a “traditional” sermon today, given we are still on shut down due to Covid-19, but I ran across some stories that I liked and felt like I wanted to twist it into a sermon anyway. Besides, in times like these, we need a little boost of faith in miracles.
A couple of years ago there was a headline that read: “Arkansas woman texted father’s number every day after he died; she got a response four years later”?
Although the headline sounded like an outreach from the other side of the grave, the actual story was far less sensational.
For four years, Chastity Patterson, of Newport, Arkansas, had been mourning the death of Jason Ligons, who, while not her biological father, had been so much like a father to her that she called him Dad.
After he died, Chastity continued to text his phone every day to update him about her life. While she didn’t expect a response, the daily texting was a way of dealing with her grief. In her message on October 25, the night before the fourth anniversary of Ligons’ death, she told about how she’d beaten cancer and hadn’t gotten sick since his passing. She also wrote about falling in love and having her heart broken, joking that Ligons “would have killed” the guy.
But then, something happened - she received a response.
It was not Ligons, but a man, identified only as Brad, who had been receiving her daily messages these past four years.
“I am not your father,” Brad texted, “but I have been getting all your messages for the past four years. ... I lost my daughter in a car wreck (in) August 2014 and your messages have kept me alive,” Brad said. “When you text me, I know it’s a message from God.”
Brad went on to say that he had read her messages for all that time but hadn’t texted her back for fear of breaking her heart.
Chastity posted the exchange to Facebook, saying, “Today was my sign that everything is okay and I can let him [Ligons] rest!” Her post was then shared more than 288,000 times and picked up by several media outlets.
How Brad came to receive Chastity’s messages is easily explained: I have read that when an individual surrenders a phone number, whether because of relocation, death or other reason, the company that supplied the phone service eventually reissues it to a new customer, sometimes as soon as 30 days after the number was discontinued.
After Chastity’s story went viral, she posted that she had shared the story to show friends and family “that there is a God and it might take four years, but he shows up right on time!”
While Chastity’s story was splashed out by several media outlets, few of the major national news organizations reported the story at all, which suggests that by some standards, it didn’t rise to the level of “news,” and there was no “miracle” involved. I suppose by some definitions of “miracle,” it may indeed not have been one, but surely God was indeed involved. 
And that brings us to the Scripture lesson for today — the well-known account of Jesus feeding more than 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish and ending up with 12 baskets of leftovers. This story appears in all four gospels, a sure sign that the early Christians had no doubt that what Jesus did that day was a miracle.
But now fast forward to the 19th century, when a Protestant Bible scholar named Heinrich Paulus examined the feeding the 5,000 story. Paulus was a rationalist, and as such, was skeptical that miracles occurred. He posited that what really happened was that in the spirit of the day, after Jesus blessed the meager amount of food on hand, the wealthier people in the crowd, who had arrived with packed picnic baskets, shared their food with those who had none.
(I do hope you weren’t drinking something and had a mouthful that you didn’t just now send it spraying across the room!)
People persuaded by Paulus say the real miracle was that the wealthy were inspired to share what they had.
Paulus, by the way, is the same guy who proposed the “swoon theory,” which speculates that Jesus did not actually die on the cross, but somehow survived his execution and proclaimed that he had risen from the dead. (I suppose it doesn’t matter that there were non-followers of Jesus who were witnesses and reported the actual death of Jesus, but as Trump say, fake news maybe.)
Of course, many of us have trouble reconciling miracles with reason. And that logic gap is likely what the news writer was counting on when he headlined Chastity’s story to sound spectacular.
But both the sensational headline and our natural skepticism miss the real story: that Chastity’s texts helped Brad deal with his grief following his daughter’s death, and that his reply to Chastity helped her put to rest her grief over Ligons’ death, and that both Chastity and Brad viewed the texts from the other as conveying a message from God.
Miracle stories like the feeding of the 5,000 and non-miracle stories like Chastity’s invite us to think about how God does work in our lives. Certainly God is not limited to interventions that cannot be explained by science or that go beyond the realm of reason. He can work through means we might label as coincidence or accident or serendipity or luck or natural processes or everyday happenings.
In Isaiah, we find God saying, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, ... For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (55:8-9). We minister folk often quote these words to emphasize how God can work through means that we humans don’t have available to us, and that is certainly a correct message to hear in these verses. But we shouldn't take them as if they are saying that God works only through extraordinary or miraculous means. God’s higher ways may, in some cases, operate through everyday things — through natural functions of life. Some Christians have observed that God uses means (or agents, tools or intermediaries) much more often than he intervenes in the laws of nature — with bright lights and all, such as he did with Paul on the road to Damascus.
This does not muddy the majesty of God's ways. In fact, it might be said that in sending Jesus as a human being, God was putting his majesty in an ordinary “container.”
Consider this true story from a book called Small Miracles: Carol Anderson was young widow whose husband died at 35. Bob Edwards was a young widower whose wife had been killed in a car accident at 29. Both had happy marriages, but after several lonely years the two surviving spouses met and got married. They got along well except for one thing — their differing opinions about how to handle their history. Bob wanted to explore it, to share it with Carol. He wanted to know about Carol’s first husband and tell her about his first wife. Carol, however, didn’t want to talk at all about their previous marriages; the pain from her loss was still too strong. “Why raise ghosts?” she said. But Bob felt that good memories should be preserved, not obliterated.
This issue hung between them for a long time, with Carol’s view prevailing, to Bob’s disappointment. But finally, after a few years, Carol felt secure enough to talk about the past and decided to show Bob some snapshots from her first marriage. Among the photos were pictures that Carol and her first husband had taken in France on their honeymoon. “Here we are at Lourdes,” Carol said, pointing to a photo taken at the famous healing shrine.
“You went to Lourdes?” Bob said, mildly interested. “So did we.”
“Well, I guess half the world goes to Lourdes,” Carol said. It was no big deal.
But then Bob asked to see the photo again. “Who’s that couple in the background?”
“I have no idea,” Carol said. “Just a couple who walked by and were caught by the shutter. I can see why you asked, though ... It does look as though they’re standing behind us, almost as if they’re posing, but that’s just an illusion.”
“That couple,” Bob said, “is me and my first wife.”
The matter for us to affirm today is raised both by the miracle story in the Scripture reading and by some natural occurrences that take on special meanings for us — in that we see the hand of God behind them. From the perspective of daily life, there’s not much value in arguing over whether miracles occur or whether there are rational explanations for the events that bring us meaning, healing, hope or lift us up. If we experience God as being in them, we are in touch with the miraculous.
Let’s say it like this: We encounter many serendipitous happenings in life for which there is no supernatural intervention overriding the laws of nature. But something occurs that is not ordinary, not usual and not what one would normally expect to happen. Maybe God did not provide an exception to Newton’s (or Einstein’s) laws of motion, but He may well have moved people to interact in ways that provided what was needed by someone in a particular situation.
In the case of Chastity and Brad, the miracle may have been that God moved both of them toward the mutual support and benefit that occurred.
And we can say this as well: Both Chastity and Brad were quick to see God’s fingerprints in their exchange. Skeptics might disagree, but some things take the eyes of faith to discern.
In this time of continued unease and a seemingly unending pandemic, there may be little acts of God happening. It may be hard to see them, especially in times of despair. But, remember our ways are not God’s ways. 
If you look, you may find God’s fingerprints all over the place. I prefer to look and see miracles, or at the very least, God’s involvement during this time. It keeps hope alive!
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
Services are canceled, but someone failed to tell them that to expenses that still need to be paid, and so we remain beggars. Donate if you can. May God richly bless you for it!