Saint John Chrysostom

The collect for today, the Feast of St John Chrysostom (347-407), Preacher, Doctor of the Church, Archbishop of Constantinople (source):

O God of truth and love,
who gavest to thy servant John Chrysostom
eloquence to declare thy righteousness in the great congregation
and courage to bear reproach for the honour of thy name:
mercifully grant to the ministers of thy word
such excellence in preaching
that all people may share with them
in the glory that shall be revealed;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Lesson: Jeremiah 1:4-10
The Gospel: St Luke 21:12-15

Saint John ChrysostomArtwork: Saint John Chrysostom, c. 9th century. Mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey.

Saint Polycarp of Smyrna

The collect for today, the Feast Day of St Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, Apostolic Man, Martyr (source):

Almighty God,
who gavest to thy servant Polycarp
boldness to confess the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ
before the rulers of this world
and courage to suffer death for his faith:
grant that we too may be ready
to give an answer for the faith that is in us
and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Lesson: Revelation 2:8-11
The Gospel: St Matthew 20:20-23

Saint PolycarpChurch tradition holds that Polycarp was born c. AD 69 of Christian parents and was a disciple of St John the Apostle and Evangelist, who ordained him Bishop of Smyrna. Polycarp was arrested during a pagan festival in Smyrna (present-day Izmir, Turkey) and brought before the Roman pro-consul.

[W]hen the magistrate pressed him hard and said, “Swear the oath, and I will release you; revile the Christ,” Polycarp said, “Eighty-six years have I been His servant, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

But on his persisting again and saying, “Swear by the genius of Caesar,” he answered, “If you suppose vainly that I will swear by the genius of Caesar, as you say, and feign that you are ignorant who I am, hear you plainly: I am a Christian. But if you would learn the doctrine of Christianity, assign a day and give me a hearing.”

He was burned at the stake for refusing to renounce Christ.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp was written down by the church of Smyrna and sent as a letter to the church at Philomelium. It is the first Christian martyrology. Several translations of the text can be accessed via this page.

The Conversion of Saint Paul

The collect for today, The Conversion of Saint Paul, from The Book of Common Prayer (Canadian, 1962):

Cranach the Younger, Conversion of St PaulO GOD, who, through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Saint Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same, by following the holy doctrine which he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lesson: Acts 21:40-22:16
The Gospel: St Luke 21:10-19

Artwork: Lucas Cranach the Younger, Conversion of St. Paul, 1549. Germanisches National Museum, Nuremberg.

Sermon for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

“Speak the word only”

Before I begin, let me thank Fr. Harris for the kindness of his invitation to preach this morning here at St. Peter’s. I bring you greetings from Windsor, Nova Scotia, from Christ Church and, on behalf of the Headmaster, Mr. Joe Seagram, and our assistant Headmaster, Mr. Darcy Walsh, who is also here with us this morning, I bring you greetings from King’s-Edgehill School. It is wonderful, too, that Canon Tuck, an old boy of the School, is assisting with the liturgy this morning. All these wonderful Maritime connections!

Along with my colleague, Mr. Kevin Lakes, and our Junior Boys Basketball Team consisting of Christian, Zachary, Devon, Sam, Fernando, Ryan, Ben and Tom, we have been delighted to come and play on your island and now to be able to come and pray on your island, especially here in this wonderful and holy place.

Everything is “charged with the grandeur of God,” the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins suggests. But, then, there is the misery, too, the misery of suffering and death in Haiti, for instance. The grandeur and the misery. The grandeur of God meets the misery of man in the Epiphany season; “signs and wonders” abound in that meeting.

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Meditation for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Teaching is Feeding: “Thou hast the words of eternal life”

The sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel is known as “the Bread of Life Discourse.” It concerns our Lord’s teaching about himself and about the means of our abiding in him. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him” (vs.56). “The words which I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (vs.63). The last sections of this chapter (vs.41ff), which we heard this morning, indicate how hard and yet how necessary the teachings of Christ are. As Amos puts it, “they abhor him who speaks the truth” (Amos 5.10).

God teaches us about himself and about our life in him. But these are hard teachings. The Jews murmur against Jesus because of the identity they perceive he makes between himself and God, “calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5.18). They murmur against him here “because he said, I am the bread of life which came down from heaven” (John 6.41). This conflicts with what they think they know about him. “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” (vs.42). Their sense of his earthly identity gets in the way of what he would teach them. What he would teach them is an heavenly knowledge conveyed through earthly signs. It is a kind of epiphany.

He recalls the point of the prophets, “they shall all be taught by God” (Is.54.13, Jer.31.33,34), and centers it upon himself, “everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me”(vs.45). They murmured because in saying “I am the bread which came down from heaven” (vs.41), he identifies himself with the Father as the one who is “from God” (vs.46). That is the meaning of his being the Son, the Son of God become the Son of man.

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