“The Truths of Christianity cannot be arrived at by reason alone, but they are never unreasonable!”
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
So very good to be here with you on this 6th Sunday of Easter, where has the time gone, and will we ever forget Eastertide 2020?
Just imagine being at the Areopagus in Athens in the 1st century and having the courage to address the men of Athens in such bold terms. Thinking Greeks have long ago worked out many of the theological requirements of what God must be, in order to be God, and not a god.
Let’s jump forward to St. Anselm of Canterbury, 1033-1109, this is one directly in our Anglican tradition for sure. He came up with the idea that God must be that than which nothing greater can be conceived. If you are thinking of any deficit whatsoever, you are clearly not thinking of God proper.
An important concept here is that we can arrive at absolute truth via different methodologies, and this is not me being ecumenical at all. That is not being loose with the facts. One can equally well cut down a tree with a saw, or an axe. The end result is the tree is cut down.
When the Greeks want to come to the correct conclusion about things theological they resort to systematic philosophy, which later becomes very key to systematic Theology in western Christendom. They apply logic.
When the Jewish people want to speak to the truth of what, and how God is they tend to tell stories to make their point. They use tools such parables, much like Christ does in the Gospels. They like to compose and sing Psalms. Both methods are effective, but they are different. Reading the Sentences of Peter Abelard, or St. Thomas Aquinas is a very different experience than chanting psalms. The work of the Christian Church will be to make the revelation given to the Jewish people understandable to the systematic thinkers in the Greco Roman world. This of course does happen. The stories of the Jewish people will have to withstand the philosophical scrutiny of the Greek mind, and in fact they do that in an amazing way. At the end of the historical day very few of the Jewish people convert to Christianity, but the Greek and Roman worlds come over to the faith by the droves. As well as huge numbers of the Celtic peoples who play a large role in the formation of our Anglican traditions and support the Christian cause to this day.
This is the sweet core of Christian Apologetics, you are called to better than good, and more charitable than Justice would demand.
For sure we are not all called to be systematic theologians, philosophers, or masters of Church history. The Ordained of the Church have an obligation to at least be competent to express the message of Christianity to inquirers, and adherents of the faith. They also need to be able to step out onto the field of ideas and make some sort of defense of the faith to its opponents and critics as well when that is called for. For the vast majority of Christians their best apologetic for the faith is their exercise of Christian virtue through the living of their lives day to day.
Many people today question the need for institutional Church at all, why even with the times we have recently gone through many might be quite satisfied with the experience of a “social media” Church. Why do I need to go out, I got the TV Mass right here, I did a spiritual communion? Well there are times that is what we have to do, but in general our sound sacramental theology certainly tells us that when possible actually receiving the Blessed Sacrament is to be preferred.
The importance of our Sacramental theology is not the only reason we gather in person as a Church. The Church is like a spiritual gym. It is the primary place we gather to exercise virtue. How can you be charitable toward others if you are alone? Faith is personal, but it also has a public component and witness. We hope as individuals, but that hope is fostered and inspired by our community life here together as we worship, socialize, listen to each other, and teach the wonderful Christian tradition we possess. It is good if some people here irritate you a little, now you have a chance to be charitable and kind. You are now pumping the iron of the soul.
“Always be prepared to make a defense to any on who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
What we are hearing in 1st Peter today is be so sharp and learned to defend the Christian faith at any turn, but really let your behavior and your way of life do the speaking much more than your words of defense. Right here in this little parish community of St. Johns, for sure let these sermons we deliver be within the confines of Orthodoxy, and congruent with the history of the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ. But even more let the life and actions of the people of this parish speak so much louder than their works, that anybody who would wish to take exception with their practices would be shamed by our people’s profound charity toward them. By the time we get to today’s Gospel we are in the arena of unique revelation given to men by Christ himself. As is so Jewish about the Christ when he teaches the Apostles in terms they can comprehend he tells a story about how reality is. Christ is the true vine, and the Father will tend this particular vine, and so far as I know with certainty, no other vine.
“Abide in me and I in you.” “Apart from me you can do nothing” Read the Gospel.
This is why everything I said in the first part of this sermon makes sense. We start right here at the Ambo, and the Altar, that is in Word, and Sacrament. This is exactly how we follow the mandates of Christ going out into the world as a force of goodness and Charity. From the earliest of times onlookers to our faith were always amazed at the way Christians cared for each other.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Randy Rogers