Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Glory to the Lamb!

A friend recently drew my attention to this article in the February 2005 Minneapolis Roman Catholic Charismatic Renewal Newsletter. It was originally a homily preached by  Fr Al Backmann, of Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Columbia Heights, Minnesota. Great preaching!!! 

In today’s gospel, John the Baptist says, “Look, there is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” And everybody looked.

Now that phrase is familiar to us, but can you imagine what those people must have thought when John said, “Look, there is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” We hear that phrase all of the time, but for those people it must have been somewhat shocking. Here John was referring to Jesus as a lamb, as an animal. John didn’t say, “Look, here comes the son of Mary and Joseph,” or “Look, here comes Jesus, the Son of God.” Instead he says, “Look, here comes the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

I would like to share with you some background about the term “Lamb of God.” In the Second Book of Samuel, Nathan tells a story to David. He says there are two men who are citizens of the same town. One was rich and powerful; the other was very poor. The rich man had a large flock of sheep, more than he could even count; the poor man had only one – one tiny lamb.

But the poor man’s children loved that one little lamb; they played with it all day long, and they even brought it to the table to share their food with the lamb. Nathan says they even taught the lamb to drink from a cup. The lamb was like a member of the family. One day an important visitor came along to the rich man’s house. The rich man didn’t want to kill his own lamb to feed the guest, so he sent his servants to the poor man’s house and took his lamb and slaughtered it to feed the guest. That’s all in the book of Samuel. It’s a marvellous story.

The moving story of the rich man’s cruelty is one of the images John the Baptist had in mind when he said, “Look, there is the Lamb of God.” Nathan’s story of the poor man’s pet lamb fits Jesus. Jesus too was deeply loved; Jesus too was cruelly slain.

There was another image in John’s mind when he pointed to Jesus and said, “Look, there is the Lamb of God.” That is the image of the lambs that were sacrificed in the Temple, the lambs that were daily sacrificial offerings. They were the same sacrifices that God told Moses in the Book of Exodus were, every day for all time, to be sacrificed on the altar: two one-year-old, unblemished lambs, one in the morning and one in the evening. And these daily sacrifices were kept all through the years. When John the Baptist points to Jesus and says, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,” he had in mind the sacrificial lambs that were offered in the morning and in the evening. In effect what John was saying to his disciples is, “We offer lambs daily in the temple for our sins, but ‘this lamb’ is the only one who can save us from sin.”

Now long before John the Baptist, the prophets spoke of a mysterious servant of God who would some day suffer and die like a lamb. That was 600 years before Christ. Chapter 53 of Isaiah says, “..He was treated harshly, but endured it humbly.  Like a lamb about to be slaughtered, he never said a word.” He was arrested and sentenced so that all sins would die. He was put to death for the sins of all people.

In the book of Jeremiah it says, “I was like a trusting lamb taken out to be killed. I did not know it was against me that they were planning evil things.” And so the Lamb of God has these two vivid images: The first one, about Nathan’s story of the rich man and the poor man – and the second one, about the temple and the suffering servant of God.

Now I want to relate the image that has the most importance for us, and yet most of us are not aware of it. It is in the Book of Revelation. Do you know the words “Lamb of God” are used 28 times in the Book of Revelation? Sometimes it is about love and affection – sometimes it is about suffering and sacrifice. Those were the two early images. But there is a third image that I want to talk about that is most important for us, and that image is of “Glory and Triumph.” Chapter 5 in the Book of Revelation is a good example of where the author describes his vision of a lamb on a throne, and the lamb is surrounded by people who were singing and praising the lamb with this song, “You were killed and by your blood you ransomed all people for God from every tribe, and language, and people and nation.” People are around the throne. He is called the Lamb of God. And they are singing to the Lamb of God. And they are singing what we sing.

You know, the reason we call the Mass a sacrifice is because of the “Lamb of God.” The Lamb of God was sacrificed. So when people ask if the Mass is a sacrifice or a banquet meal, the answer is “it is both.” It is a sacrifice because of the Lamb of God. He died for us. But we forget that the better theology and the fuller theology is that he rose! And the fuller theology of the Eucharist is to celebrate. But we were taught only the other one. We weren’t taught much about this tremendous celebration of the Lamb of God who rose. And it says right in the Scriptures, “To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever! And all the people said, Amen.”

That is in the book of Revelation, but we seem to emphasize more the penitential nature of sacrifice. So people have a tendency, even today, when receiving the Eucharist to omit the other side of sacrifice, the celebration. This is the time to ‘let loose’ from the revelation. Do you know that those words we sing, “Through him, with him, and in him,” are about the same as in Revelation? And then we all respond, “Amen!” That is called the “great Amen.” Amen means “we believe.” And that should always be our response to the doxology—through him, with him and in him. And they all said, “Amen.”

The title “Lamb of God” then, has three images. Suffering and sacrifice – affection and love – glory and praise. Now there are many titles for Jesus: light of the world – the good shepherd – the bread of life, but only one time in the Mass is He the Lamb of God. That’s what we share in the Eucharist. Yes, it is a sacrifice, but don’t leave it there. He rose! We have the book of Revelation, and so we celebrate. It says, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and praise.” And every creature on earth, and under the earth, and in the sea said, “Amen.”

So don’t lose track of the dual meaning. When we say, “This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,” that is the sacrifice part; “Happy are those who are called to his supper” is the banquet part of the Eucharist.

Consider the words, “who takes away the sins of the world.” Christ died for our sins. It was the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross that removed our sins. On the cross, God piled all of human sinfulness on his only begotten son, in the image of the Lamb, weak and vulnerable. It took only a handful of soldiers and a few sharp nails to kill him. And yet, at the very moment that humankind dumped its worst sin on God by killing the very Son of God, God met that sin with the overpowering spirit of His love.

There is only one power in the universe that is more powerful than sin, and that is God’s power and determination to forgive. In the end, John tells us in the Book of Revelation that, when all of the world’s sin has been removed for all eternity, there stands one solitary victor in the midst of the throne room of God – and that is “the Lamb, Jesus Christ.” In the end, it is the Lamb who is victorious – worthy of glory and honour and praise. And we are reminded of this every time we celebrate the Eucharist. We hold the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and gaze upon the elements and say those memorable words, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” And all the people say, “Amen.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A truly great Australian - Irene Gleeson - remembered in Uganda

Photo: Ilya Gridneff, Sydney Morning Herald 

Here is a truly inspiring story from the website of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If you have a few minutes, make sure you watch the video interview with this remarkable woman of faith.

Yesterday (Friday 26th July) up to 10,000 people attended a memorial service in Uganda to celebrate the life of an Australian woman who cared for a generation of children traumatised by war.

Irene Gleeson dedicated more than 20 years of her life to helping orphaned children and those abducted by Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army.

The 68-year-old died in Sydney last week from cancer.

Uganda's foreign minister and several MPs were among the mourners who attended the service on the grounds of the Irene Gleeson Foundation at Kitgum in the country's north.

During two decades on the frontline of war, Ms Gleeson fed, housed and educated an estimated 6,000 orphans or destitute children.

During much of that time she lived alone in a caravan at Kitgum, but built several primary schools and two vocational colleges.

Her passing is of deep significance to the region's people, who affectionately knew her as Mama Irene.

The nation's foreign minister, Henry Okello, says northern Uganda would be a very different place if Ms Gleeson had not dedicated her life to helping others.

Jean Paul, the chief executive of the Irene Gleeson Foundation, says he is going to continue the work that she has done.

"Today is a day of celebration. Our hearts are broken. We are in pain. We lost our mother. The entire nation has lost a mother," he told the ABC.

"But also we are here not just to mourn but to celebrate the life of Mama Irene. The lives she has changed.

"The landscape she has transformed, the nation she has blessed, the thousands of children that she has given hope to who would have perished without her sacrifice of leaving her home in Australia, selling it and relocating to the war zone of Uganda.

"We have received thousands of mourners who have come to pay their last respects to Mama Irene. We have district officials, representatives of the Australian High Commission in Nairobi are here. It is a big day.

"The people are asking that this day be remembered every year, the day Mama Irene passed on, 21 July every year, we come together and remember it.

"Yes, we are in pain. We are hearing testimonies of children who have been built to their full potential by Mama Irene.

"But also we are not just going to mourn. Mama Irene say: 'Never say, rest in peace, for me'. Because for her, she will be dancing and singing in heaven.

"We know she will be proud to see the people here today and the lives changed through her work."

And here is part of the Sydney Morning Herald's report:

Australia’s representative from the high commission in Kenya, Simon Anderson, read a message from former Labor MP Bob McMullan, who last year visited Kitgum as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy.

“I still have a vivid memory of 5000 healthy children in Irene’s school assembly,” McMullan wrote. “The image is in my head and in my heart forever. She made me very proud to be an Australian.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr sent a tribute on behalf of the Australian people and government.

“Her life charted an inspirational path from Sydney to Kitgum,” Carr wrote. “Mama Irene demonstrates the difference that one dedicated and courageous human being can make in the lives of many others.

“She leaves an enduring and remarkable legacy, not only helping thousands of children who attended the schools she established, but their families and wider communities. She was committed to helping build hope and new dreams in the aftermath of conflict.”

Read more: 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pope Francis to a million young people at World Youth Day: "Make Christ the centre of your lives"

Thursday, July 25, 2013

John Henry Newman's Sermon for St James' Day

On ths feast of St James the Apostle, I share with you a couple of extracts from John Henry Newman’s powerful sermon on venturing in faith. It is SERMON XX from PAROCHIAL AND PLAIN SERMONS, VOLUME IV

“They say unto Him, We are able.” MATT. xx. 22. 

These words of the holy Apostles James and John were in reply to a very solemn question addressed to them by their Divine Master. They coveted, with a noble ambition, though as yet unpractised in the highest wisdom, untaught in the holiest truth, they coveted to sit beside Him on His Throne of Glory. They would be content with nothing short of that special gift which He had come to grant to His elect, which He shortly after died to purchase for them, and which He offers to us. They ask the gift of eternal life ; and He in answer told them, not that they should have it (though for them it was really reserved), but He reminded them what they must venture for it ; “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with ? They say unto Him, We are able.” Here then a great lesson is impressed upon us, that our duty as Christians lies in this, in making ventures for eternal life without the absolute certainty of success. 

Success and reward everlasting they will have, who persevere unto the end. Doubt we cannot, that the ventures of all Christ’s servants must be returned to them at the Last Day with abundant increase. This is a true saying, He returns far more than we lend to Him, and without fail. But I am speaking of individuals, of ourselves one by one. No one among us knows for certain that he himself will persevere; yet every one among us, to give himself even a chance of success at all, must make a venture. As regards individuals, then, it is quite true, that all of us must for certain make ventures for heaven, yet without the certainty of success through them. This, indeed, is the very meaning of the word “venture;” for that is a strange venture which has nothing in it of fear, risk, danger, anxiety, uncertainty. Yes; so it certainly is; and in this consists the excellence and nobleness of faith; this is the very reason why faith is singled out from other graces, and honoured as the especial means of our justification, because its presence implies that we have the heart to make a venture. 

. . . Little as [the youthful Apostles] knew what they said in its fulness, yet their words were any how expressive of their hidden hearts, prophetic of their future conduct. They say unto Him, “We are able.” They pledge themselves as if unawares, and are caught by One mightier than they, and, as it were, craftily made captive. But, in truth, their unsuspicious pledge was, after all, heartily made, though they knew not what they promised; and so was accepted.” Are ye able to drink of My cup, and be baptized with My baptism ? They say unto Him, We are able.” He in answer, without promising them heaven, graciously said, “Ye shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.” 

Generous hearts, like James and John, or Peter, often speak largely and confidently beforehand of what they will do for Christ, not insincerely, yet ignorantly; and for their sincerity’s sake they are taken at their word as a reward, though they have yet to learn how serious that word is. “They say unto Him, We are able;” . . . and in truth they were enabled to do and suffer as they had said. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

St Mary Magdalene's Day

Today is the Feast of St Mary Magdalene, the “apostle to the apostles” because she announced to them the resurrection of the Lord. In the western Church, she is identified also with the penitent woman who washed the feet of Jesus, and sometimes with Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha and Lazarus. Certainly, Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century declared them to be the same person. But the East has never made that identification. Today, there Western Christians tend to be divided on the question.

Here are two hymns for today. The first (sung to the tune "Petersham") was written in 1884 by Mrs R.F. Williams, and clearly identifies Mary in the traditional Western way.

The second is from the Saint Helena Breviary, published in 2006 and focuses on the Gospel for the day. It goes beautifully to the tune "Puer Nobis Narscitur."

When Mary, moved by grateful love,
The precious ointment poured
Upon the head and feet of him
She owned as Christ and Lord,
The odour of the costly gift
Pervaded all the room;
How grateful to the sense it seemed --
How sweet the rich perfume.

An off’ring similar I bring
In thanks and praise to thee
My heart’s devoted love is all,
O Christ, accept of me
This gift, and may its fragrance rise
As incense to thy throne
And seal me with thy gracious hand
To work for thee, thine own.


Out of the night where hope had died,
to tomb once sealed, now gaping wide,
the Magdalene made haste, to mourn
and bring her spices through the dawn.

She gazed in disbelief and pain
where Jesus in his death had lain,
until the radiant angel said,
Seek not the living with the dead.

Soon trusting love cast out her fears;
she rose and brushed away her tears.
As first apostle, Mary ran
to tell God’s resurrection plan.

Jesus is risen! Mary cries,
Lift up your hearts and dry your eyes,
Jesus is risen - come and see - 
and goes before to Galilee.

All glory be to God above,
for Mary’s apostolic love,
all praise to God whom we adore
for ever and for evermore. Amen.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What an ending! (Dr Ward's book "On Christian Priesthood")

Dr Robin Ward’s book On Christian Priesthood, published in 2011, is a remarkable volume that seeks to “restore the centrality of priesthood to the understanding of Christian ministry” (note on the back cover). Considerable demands are placed on the reader (I don’t think Fr Ward set out to write an easy book!), but the rewards of perseverance are manifold, and I think the book should be compulsory reading for priests and ordinands. What came to me as a total surprise was the marked change from elegant but dense didacticism to a surge of lyrical language in Ward’s conclusion. The final paragraph in particular deserves a place in any anthology of Anglican readings - perhaps even alongside Gregory Dix’s “Was ever another command so obeyed?”  

. . . Christian cult serves as a preservative of the eschatological vocation of the Church, in which sacred buildings, rites and habits virtuously map out on the landscape of the earthly city the incursion of beatitude.

On the feast of Pentecost the apostles receive the gift of the Holy Spirit with the visible sign of tongues as of fire, and their preaching restores the communion lost to the human race in the confusion of Babel. In the Western Church the Vestments worn to celebrate this feast are red, with an obvious symbolism; for the Byzantine Slavs, however, the colour is green. The descent of the Spirit on the Church is always the well-spring of her fecundity, the renewal of all that is fruitful and the inspiration of all that is of Christ. Renewal in the Church is fidelity to the work of the Spirit, not confidence in our own capacity to achieve it. It is the Holy Spirit whom Christ breathes onto the apostles when he appoints them to be the merciful ministers of reconciliation; it is the gift of the Spirit which Timothy is urged to fan into a flame when he is ordained by the laying on of hands for the oversight of the people of God; it is the Holy Spirit whose invocation consecrates the sacramental sacrifice according to the rite of the oriental liturgies, and so makes tangible the communion which the apostle calls His own. Christian priesthood is the ministry which serves the people of God from the wellsprings of grace appointed by Christ and made abundantly fruitful by the abiding presence of the Spirit, the spring-time of the Church. In the vision of Ezekiel it is the renewed Temple which waters the land and makes it fruitful and consecrated: the cult which nourishes with life; the adoration which does not fail; the cleansing river which saves.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What we do on Sunday Morning

The beginning of High Mass 
at All Saints' Wickham Terrace, Brisbane (1996)

OK . . . After the last two "marathon posts" here is a short one:

For you and for me the Eucharist is our weekly renewal of faith when we gather with the whole Company of Heaven to praise and worship the Lord. 

As a community we open our minds and hearts to hear what he is saying to us through the Bible, his Word.

As a royal, priestly people, we become part of the eternal self-offering of Jesus to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit, not just for ourselves, but for all who are connected to the Altar by our presence there. 

And the risen life of Jesus surges through us in every Holy Communion, enabling us as the Church - his Body - to embrace a wounded, crushed and broken world with his healing love. 

So, you see, while “making our Communion” is an intensely personal miracle of love and a great blessing for us individually, it - and the Liturgy in which it occurs - is mostly about our being together the Community of Salvation.

- From a recent sermon

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Forward in Faith North America - Declaration of Faith & Purpose

The Forward in Faith North America National Assembly is in session at Belleville, Illinois. The theme of this year's Assembly is "Ecclesiology at the Crossroads." The keynote speaker is former Bishop of Rochester in the Church of England, the Rt Rev'd Michael Nazir-Ali. 

Hot off the press from the Assembly is this declaration. We pray for the Council of FiFNA and all clerical and lay members as they witness to the Faith once delivered to the saints.


In the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: the Father the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I ________, a Lay Member/Religious/Deacon/Priest/Bishop and my spouse, _________ a Lay Member/Religious/Deacon of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, affirm the following so that the faithful witness to apostolic Faith and catholic Order may be continued within the Churches of Anglican heritage.

1. I believe our Lord Jesus Christ has given His Church an Order which claims the loyalty of faithful Christians above and beyond any deviation sanctioned by any humanly-invented institution, whether secular or ecclesiastical.

2. I accept the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith and morals.

3. I accept the Apostles’ Creed as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.

4. I accept the historic episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church. I affirm the Christian ministerial priesthood as male and that the churches of the Anglican Communion have no authority to change the historic tradition of the male priesthood. I pray that God grants me the strength and ability to uphold the Church’s Order, both materially and spiritually as concerns the ministerial priesthood of His holy Church. Accordingly, I will reject any and all actions that might signify acceptance of a deviation from the Church’s Order regarding the Christian ministerial priesthood.

5.  I recognize the seven Sacraments of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church - Baptism and the Supper of the Lord - ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution, and of the elements ordained by Him, Confirmation, Matrimony, Ordination, Reconciliation of a Penitent, and Unction of the Sick.

6. I believe that, in the Sacrament and mystery of the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ is truly, really and substantially present in the Body and Blood in the outward and visible sign of Bread and Wine. (cf. 1 Cor. 10: 16-17, 11:23-29, John 6:32-71)

7. I affirm our Lord’s teaching that the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is in its nature the exclusive, permanent and lifelong union of one man and one woman.

8. I believe all Seven Councils are ecumenical and catholic on the basis of the received Tradition of the ancient Undivided Church of East and West.

9. I affirm that God, and not man, is the creator of human life. Believing that the unjustified taking of life is sinful, I will promote and uphold the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

In making this Declaration, I accept all the responsibilities which pertain to the common witness of all who participate in this endeavor and I ask God’s blessing upon our labors.

Having signed this Declaration, I hereby apply for Membership/Associate Membership in Forward in Faith, North America.

Please return to: 
Forward in Faith, North America
P.O. Box 210248
Bedford TX 76095-7248

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Isaac Williams preaching on the Church, the New Jerusalem . . . a Bride adorned for her Husband

Today's is a long post, but well worth reading. Isaac Williams’ name is frequently mentioned in the same breath as those of Pusey, Newman, Keble and Froude, the leaders of the 19th century Oxford Movement, or Catholic Revival in the Church of England. But he is not as well known to ordinary Anglicans. Williams (1802-1865) entered Trinity College, Oxford, in 1822 and his poetry caught the eye of John Keble, who took Williams under his wing.  After his graduation and ordination Williams went on to assist John Henry Newman as curate of St. Mary’s, Oxford.  He became known for his Latin scholarship, his poetry and his exposition of Scripture. He preached this sermon in Wales, at the consecration of the Church of Llangorwen in the Diocese of St David’s on 16th December, 1841.

“I John saw the holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a Bride adorned for her Husband. And I heard a great voice out of Heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them.” (Revelation 21:2-3)

THESE words are not spoken only of that great day, when the Son of Man shall be revealed visibly returning to earth, together with His Saints; but like most expressions in holy Scripture which speak of the kingdom of Heaven hereafter, they designate also at the same time the kingdom of God upon earth, the present Christian Church. To the baptized Christian it is already, we are told, “a new Creation: all things to him are become new,” in token and earnest of that “new Heaven and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

In some unspeakable manner, and beyond the heart of unbelieving man, this description is even now fulfilled, and “behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He is come down to dwell among them!” For great and amazing as this account is, it is by no means more so than the fulfilment must be of our Lord’s promises to His Church; for He has assured us that He will dwell among us,—that He will continue with us unto the world’s end,—that He will manifest Himself unto us,—that God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost will come and make their abode with us. And indeed the very Name by which He has been pleased to reveal himself to us is that of Immanuel, or, God with us.”

Surely, therefore, in “the Holy Catholic Church,” of which the Creed speaks, we may see the fulfilment of this very glowing and high description, for it is, as the Apostle declares, no less than “the House of the living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth.” We must, indeed, raise and open our minds, in order that we may enter into promises so truly great and Heavenly; and it is much to be observed, that whenever our Lord’s disciples, or His enemies, failed in comprehending the meaning of His words, it was always from interpreting them in a sense too low and confined, never for attaching to them a signification too high and divine. O the awful and incomprehensible greatness of the words of God, fulfilled often, again and again, but always fulfilled beyond the thought of man!

Now of this Holy Church of God it is expressly stated in the Text, that she comes down “from God out of Heaven;” and this is very much to be kept in mind, in order that we may rightly estimate her character, and afford that attention and reverence which is due to all that appertains to her, that she is, emphatically, “from God, out of Heaven.” For her ordinances are not of earthly appointment,— “are not of men, nor by man,” but of God; the ministers and stewards of her Mysteries and her Sacraments, and all the gifts of the Church are of Heaven, not of earth; and all the graces bestowed on her members are, in the highest and fullest sense, “from God, out of Heaven.” These words of which we speak, were therefore in one sense fulfilled, when at midnight the song of Angels and shepherds was heard, blending Heaven and earth together, to sing the birth of Immanuel, or “God with us;” and still more fully when on the day of Pentecost there was heard a sound, as of a rushing mighty wind; that sound was indeed no other than that of the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven to be with men.

But although it be of the Catholic and Apostolic Church throughout the world that this solemn description is given; yet I trust we may venture, without irreverence or lowering of Divine Words, to apply them, in some inferior sense also, even to this place in which we are met on this day. For by faith even of this “House of Prayer,” we may hear a great voice out of Heaven, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them.” For, in fact, by understanding them in this manner, we do but hear our Lord’s voice, when speaking to us on another occasion, and look for the fulfilment of His infallible promise in this place; for He has declared that “where two or three are gathered together,” in His name, there is He “in the midst of them.” This fabric, therefore, when dedicated to Christian worship, is no less than the chosen place of Christ’s abode. And if union and concord in His worshippers, is the essential condition and the obligation laid upon us, in order that we may obtain this His mysterious approach and nearness, where can we expect to find these requisites more fully realized, than in a place where we all meet together to use the same prayers;—the same with each other;—the same in some measure with other Christians in all parts of the world;-the same which our forefathers have used for more than a thousand years, and indeed, perhaps almost from the very beginning of the Christian Name?

That we may entertain this great and glad assurance, that we shall have indeed no less than Christ’s own gracious Presence here vouchsafed to us, will appear still more strongly, when we consider it as the place where the blessed Sacraments are to be administered. For all holy offices which are performed by Christ’s delegated Ministers in His name, are supposed, in some sense, to he performed by Christ Himself. Thus we several times read in Scripture of Christ baptizing, when we find on a little enquiry, that it was not that He Himself baptized, but His Apostles in His name; it was He, (said the great forerunner) that should baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. And when God gave direction to Moses for His Priests of old to bless in His Name, He added to the terms of the blessing His gracious promise, “And I will bless them.” He transferred the words from His Minister unto Himself, and after saying, “He shall put My Name on the children of Israel,” He added, “and I will bless them.” He laid the duty of pronouncing it on the Minister, but the blessing was His own. This consideration attaches an awful interest to the Ministrations to be performed in this House, when by faith we look beyond the frail earthly vessel, and forgetting the presence of men in the performance of these things, we discern the presence of God, we press on from things earthly and visible, unto things invisible and heavenly. As seen by the good Christian in spiritual discernment, it is not Paul, it is not Apollos, it is not Cephas, it is Christ that baptizes; if we may say with awful reverence and caution, it is Christ who gives us with His own sacred hands, the memorials of His death, and the pledges of our life: it is Christ, the life-giving Word of God, that is read: it is Christ Who blesses, and pronounces “peace:” it is Christ Who consecrates: it is Christ Who exhorts by His Servants, according to the Apostle’s words, “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead.”

Now if the highest and best frame of mind, which a Christian can attain to, is thus humbly and devoutly to cherish Christ’s words and appointments, as coming from Him and being of Him, and thus led on by the Spirit to see Christ in all things that are done in His name:—if the more we practise these contemplations, the more we attain unto reverence and holiness of mind, and therefore more closely and nearly approach to great unseen truths of God; if this be indeed so, with what awe and devout worship ought we to solemnize this day, when in some mysterious sense the tabernacle of God comes to be among us; and when He arises as it were, in unspeakable condescension, to take possession of His place! Doubtless we may with reverence use the words of the Psalmist, which our appointed Service on this day puts into our mouths;—and say “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in!”

It is Christ to whom especially this title belongs of “the King of Glory;” and we with unveiled countenance have the privilege, says the Apostle, to behold His glory. Surely therefore the meek in Spirit, to whom “mysteries are revealed,”—the pure in heart, who have the promise that “they shall see God,”’—and the contrite, with whom His Holy Spirit dwells, may, by the eye of faith, discern the glory of the Lord, as when of old it appeared visibly to take possession of God’s holy place;—when “the Glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle, and Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the Cloud abode thereon:” and when Solomon dedicated the temple, and “the Glory of the Lord filled the house, and the Priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the Glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house,”— “and the children of Israel” “bowed themselves with their faces to the ground,” “and worshipped.” Surely, I say, we ought with God’s blessing to be no less affected with fear and trembling, though it be also with great joy; for although the Glory, wherein God has come to dwell with us Christians, and wherein we are brought near to Him, be not visible now to bodily eyes, as it was then of old, yet, as the Apostle St. Paul assures us, this the ministration of the Spirit doth indeed greatly “exceed in Glory.”

These reflections cannot indeed but appear to a thoughtful Christian as deeply worthy of his most serious and devout attention. For it will, I think, be evident from all that has been said, that even of this House of God’s worship, no less can be said than this, that it is, in some sense, “the tabernacle of God” come to be “with men.” And if so, then we must remember this awful circumstance, that the material tabernacle of old was strength to the Israelite, when he revered and cherished it, but was death to the Philistine, because he neglected and profaned it, not considering therein God’s Presence.

If the holy Patriarch of old was afraid, because he found that God was in the place, and he knew it not; and exclaimed “how dreadful” was the spot which was “none other but the house of God,” “and the gate of Heaven;” shall we with feelings of less veneration and awe approach a Christian Church? Is it not peculiarly “the House of God?” Is it not worthy to be called the “gate of Heaven” in a much higher and more concerning sense than that place where the Patriarch worshipped?—the gate of “the City of God?” the gate of the kingdom of Heaven come near unto us? Nay, indeed, as the holy place of Christian worship, may it not in some sense be said to be like that “gate” of which our bless├Ęd Lord Himself spake, that “whosoever knocketh” at that gate, “it shall be opened” unto him. Surely the true Israelite, the guileless Nathanael under the Gospel, is privileged to “see greater things than these;” to see in the Christian Church, the true fulfilments of the Patriarch’s typical vision; and on account of the greatness of the privileges and graces to be found therein, to behold with spiritual eyes the Heavens opened, and “the Angels of God ascending and descending,”—and the tabernacle of God” come to be “with men.”

If Moses “exceedingly feared and quaked” at the coming in of that dispensation, which was but an image or figure of good things to come: shall we not feel something of the same becoming awe, when we live in the midst of those good things themselves? and are already, while in the flesh, brought near, as the Apostle states, “to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” For those things served only “unto the example and shadow of heavenly things,” i.e. of the things of Christ’s kingdom in which we dwell; in like manner as things in the Christian Church are but the types and emblematic shadows of God’s Church in Heaven.

For what was the Laver at the door of the tabernacle, but a type of Baptism at the entrance of the Christian Church? what was the molten sea on the twelve oxen, but a figure also of Baptism, as supported on the doctrine of the twelve Apostles? and what was the “table of the Shew-bread,” but a memorial of the more blessed table of the Eucharist? and what was “the pot of Manna,” but significative of the true Bread that came clown from Heaven? and what was the Presence of God over the Mercy-seat, but a sign of His Presence in His Church, and at that holy Table, which is the true Mercy-seat, where the Body and Blood of the great sacrifice are set before us in lively symbols? and what was Aaron’s rod preserved in the sanctuary, but an emblem of Christ’s own commission to descend to His Ministers in the Christian Church? To mention no more of these; shall we not cherish and venerate the substance, with something of the same religious fear as they of old did the shadow?

Or again, if they with such awe and reverence acknowledge the coming in of those things that were to them but the types and emblems of things which were to be hereafter in Christ’s kingdom; shall we not with greater awe and devotion, acknowledge these things, which, with reference to them of old, are, indeed, great realities; but with reference to things future, which we look for, are even in themselves, but figures and types of God’s eternal kingdom hereafter in Heaven?

For Baptismal Regeneration, which is the entrance into the Heavenly kingdom here below, is the type and shadow of that regeneration which is at the entrance of the eternal kingdom on the day of Judgment; when they that are found worthy shall, in a higher sense, be made “sons of God,” and be created anew in Christ’s image, both in body and soul. And His word communicated to us now, both in writing and in spirit, is but a faint figure of the time, when by His Word God shall be fully manifested to His chosen; and His will shall be their will, as ineffably revealed to them by His Word. And His Sacramental Altar and Table below is the emblem of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, of that time when Christ “shall make His approved disciples to sit down, and shall come forth and serve them.” And His Presence, or mysterious Blessing by the communication of Himself in the holy Eucharist, in a manner so passing all understanding, seems to shadow forth beforehand that His inconceivable Presence in Heaven, when Christ shall be “all in all;” and with His own in-dwelling, and bliss unspeakable shall fill both soul and body.

Nor is this all; but in order that we might be led to connect the thoughts of His invisible and eternal kingdom even with the visible and frail fabric in which we worship Him below; God has been pleased, both in the Old and New Testament, to speak of that mysterious state of bliss, which is prepared for those that love Him, under the mystical description of a material temple: by measuring out with rule and line, and giving the delineations of the walls and courts of God’s house, He has set forth a description of His own blissful and eternal kingdom.

And indeed He has consecrated the earthly habitation, in which He has been pleased to place His great Name, to a still more excellent mystery. For as the tabernacle of old was a type of things in Heaven, our blessed Lord has graciously condescended to instruct us by a holy lesson of love, that even the Temple in which He is worshipped, may serve to remind us of Himself, of His own mystical Body, of His own life-giving Presence therein, and of us His members made one in Him. For on a very remarkable occasion our Lord spoke of Himself under the symbol of a Temple, speaking of his own body as “this Temple.” And in furtherance of which divine figure, St. Paul describes Christians as “living stones,” joined together to make up that Temple wherein Christ will dwell; knit and bound together by holy Love, and built up by God Himself, for “God is Love.” Nay, even our own bodies also are Temples of the Holy Ghost, and if Divine Love build up all our affections, God will Himself (O the gracious and good words!) will even dwell in our hearts.

Thus in all things that appertain to the worship of God in His Church below we are surrounded with mysteries and miracles, by Him whom the Prayer Book speaks of as working “great marvels,” by His Grace and Ministers. And the visible House of God serves first of all to represent to us the Church Catholic and visible throughout the world—wherein Christ is mysteriously and Divinely present,—which is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ being Himself the chief corner-stone;—the City which is built on those “twelve foundations,” in which are “the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.” And in the next place, the material fabric itself serves to remind us of that Church invisible, which is being even now built up in heavenly places, like that of Solomon, quietly constructed of those already prepared for their place,without noise being heard therein, where the Saints of God are the living stones, “the house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.”

The Church of God therefore is thus found to be of a three-fold character, the Church which is more peculiarly our own, and the Church visible throughout the world, and the Church invisible in Heaven. But still neither of these is entirely separated from, or independent of the other—for the Church in this place is nothing of itself, were it not a part and branch of, and inseparably connected with, the Church Catholic throughout the world; and the Church visible throughout the world were nothing of itself, but that it is also inseparably but mysteriously connected with the Church invisible in heavenly places. The one is on earth and the other is in Heaven; but they are both alike in Holy Scripture termed “the kingdom of God.”

Now this observation may be applied also to the House of God in which we are assembled on this day; all things within it and about it are connected with two worlds. The Church-yard around is like a spot of ground lying between two worlds,—the living and the dead. Here, on this side, the living will be gathered together to take their last leave of their brethren on earth; and there, on the other side, the “spirits of the just” will welcome for the first time their new brother received into their blissful society. Much more within this Church will all things partake of two worlds; every thing done within every Sacrament administered has a relation to two worlds, partakes of two worlds. The Christian dispensation differs from the Law in this, that there is no such thing in it as a were form or rite; it is connected with things invisible; and our danger always is of resting in the form, and not going on to the spirit contained therein. For instance, it has been said, and perhaps justly, that if Baptism is not birth by Water and the Spirit, it is no better than a mere lifeless Jewish ordinance, and ought to be abolished according to the injunction of the Apostle respecting our not keeping Judaical observances. And in like manner, if the holy Eucharist has not in some mysterious sense the presence of Christ connected with it, it is but a legal rite, and not to be cherished by a Christian. But if on the contrary these things are as the Church of all ages and all countries has held them to be; then doubtless awful indeed are these things; awful the place where they are administered; great is our occasion for fear in these evil days; lest Christ should in very deed be in this place, and we know it not.

This day, therefore, of our Holy Consecration, is as far greater than any thing in the Jewish dispensation, as the Gospel is above the Law: for the ministration of the Law was glorious, because it shadowed forth beforehand the Christian kingdom; but this is glorious, because it shadows forth beforehand the blessed kingdom of God in Heaven. With reference therefore to this day, and this place, and with reference to all that witness it, truly may it be said, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see, for I tell you that many Prophets and Kings have desired to see the things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear the things which ye hear, and have not heard them.”

If God put it into the heart of the Patriarch to consecrate the holy place of His worship,by an express act of Dedication, and condescended graciously to accept of this poor act of his devotion: shall we do less religiously, or think less reverently than he? We do not wish to celebrate it by mere concourse of men, for this hallows not; but by Christ’s Presence, by His benediction, and His gracious intercession in Heavenly places, and, as set forth before us below, by the Office and Ministrations of His chief Pastor. If the Almighty was pleased Himself to appoint such solemn Services of old, and deigned, in unspeakable condescension, to speak so minutely of all that appertained to His tabernacle in the wilderness; will He not require of us the same care in preparing for His abode a Christian Church? If, afterwards, the temple of Solomon was dedicated to His honour, with so many circumstances of solemn and religious awe, shall we not, after the same pattern of His own appointed worship, celebrate the coming in of privileges infinitely greater? If, moreover, lastly, and most concerning and important of all, the Almighty has been pleased to speak of that world wherein He dwells, and where His Saints shall dwell with Him,—which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart of man conceived,—under the figure of a Temple beautifully adorned with all that is costly in nature and art, pillars and precious stones, windows of agate, walls of gold, and gates of pearl:—then it would seem that all that we can do to beautify and adorn these places of His earthly worship, is a service not unacceptable to Him.

But how would we hallow His house, and celebrate His awful Coming? Not by the anointing oil by which the Patriarch dedicated the place of God’s worship, but by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, preparing our hearts to receive Him worthily. And where shall we seek His Presence to bless us? not in the visible Cloud of His glory, not by the Shechinah, by His Presence over the Mercy-seat, but in the holy Eucharist. How shall we sanctify the place of His abode? but by faith acknowledging His presence, and spiritually discerning Him as coming to be among us, according to His promise; and in the ministrations of His own chief Servant, with whom He has graciously vouchsafed to be?

Moreover, as all our actions derive their acceptableness and blessing from the example of our adorable Lord Himself, so our meeting here on this day seems to be in a manner authorized, sanctioned, and blessed by an incident that is mentioned of our Lord in the Gospels. For as our Church says of the holy state of Marriage, that it was “adorned and beautified with Christ’s presence” at the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee, so may the same be said of the Feast of Dedication. For not only was our blessed Lord very observant of the other Festivals of Divine appointment, and on occasions when His Presence at Jerusalem was accompanied with much inconvenience and danger, but even we have reason to believe also at this solemnity of human ordinance; for we read, “It was at Jerusalem, the feast of the Dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple.” Nor are we in any way falling back to Judaical observances in attention to time and place; for we find that St. Paul also considered his presence at a festival at Jerusalem so indispensable, that it was a kind of point or landmark which drew him home from afar, and by which his course was regulated and directed from distant nations and countries.

It is not that in the Christian state we are altogether independent of time and place, and things without; but that things without minister to the things within, to things of the Spirit. As we are formed of Body and Soul,—as we trust that our bodies also as well as our souls shall arise in glory,—as Christ was pleased to take to Himself a human Body as well as a human Soul,—so we worship God not with soul only, but with body and soul. With the body we are subject to time and place: but in spirit, with time and place we connect thoughts of, and relations to, the dread stillness—the never-ending circle—of unspeakable, inconceivable, unchangeable, immeasurable eternity.

If, therefore, with this day, and this little place, things so great and Divine are connected,—if the occasion of our meeting here on this day is so hallowed by the consideration of the things that have gone before, and of the things that are to be hereafter,—if indeed it seems to touch the chain which reaches to the throne of God, and may vibrate through everlasting ages, and the days of Heaven,—what must be our reflection, but this,—who can think of these things worthily? Indeed, our poor conceptions can in no way equalize them; our hopes cannot raise themselves to the comprehension of them; their faith misgives the best of men, and when they think of blessings so great and wonderful, then their hearts cannot contain their thoughts, and they are ready to cry out with Solomon,—”but will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, Heaven and the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house which I have built.” But we are told that the thoughts of our heavenly Father are not as our thoughts, and the reason given why they are not is, on account of the greatness of His unspeakable mercies and condescensions. And to this prayer He answers by coming Himself visibly into that house, with manifest tokens of His Presence, and by the express answer and promise, “I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to Myself. Now Mine eyes shall be open, and Mine ears attend unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that My Name may be there for ever: and Mine eyes and Mine heart shall be there perpetually.” Oh, the unspeakable depth of the goodness of God! the deep of our want calls unto the deep of His mercy, and both are alike unfathomable!

So far, therefore, as we are truly and indeed devoted to the service of God, and are of that contrite spirit with which He delights to dwell; we cannot doubt that by faith all these things may be realized to us. That they are as much said to us, to quiet our faithless misgivings, as if we heard the words of God Himself addressed to us, as Solomon did. For even a greater than Solomon is here with us, even the Son of Man. Those who have assisted this pious work by their worldly substance, or by their prayers, may humbly trust that His blessing is vouchsafed to them; and their hopes are fulfilled according to the measure of their faith; that however great and dreadful the words are, yet that in deed and very truth in this little vale, there is from henceforth the place of God’s peculiar Presence, His own “House of prayer.”

To those who dwell in it, God has come near. Great indeed and incomprehensible the privilege, but let us not depart without the reflection, that in things Divine, the greatness of the privilege is equalled by the greatness of the danger. Christ has come near! It is an awful thought, for when Christ draws near, He is “a savour of life and also unto death.” The cloudy pillar in which God was present in the wilderness, was a shelter and guide to the children of Israel: but to the Egyptians it was destruction, it made their wheels to move heavily, and overwhelmed them in the sea. Though unseen by fleshly eyes, yet to the eyes of Faith, Christ has come down, and is henceforth in this place, as He was among them of old, in the cities of Capernaum, in Bethsaida, in Chorazin; but we must remember that “woe” was pronounced on those places, because Christ was present there among them, and they knew it not.

To those, therefore, of this place I would say, if after this day, and the building of this Church, your lives are no better than they have been; if you are not more constant at Church,- if you do not cherish more the holy Sacraments,—are not more self-denying in your daily life, more watchful in your whole conversation, and above all things more loving, kind, and charitable to each other, then be assured that even this blessed and holy day will rise up in the Judgment against you; this Church will be heavy weight, that will sink and overwhelm you at that hour; for whether ye think it or not, “be ye sure of this that the kingdom of God hath come nigh unto you.”

But on the contrary, if any of you here present are indeed wholly bent and purposed to receive worthily (as far as such as we can receive worthily) our adored Master and Saviour, coming thus to take His peculiar abode among us; His Holy Spirit, who has enabled you to be thus minded, will doubtless instruct you how to do so. And He will, probably, put it into your hearts to begin by making some sacrifice.

Remember Zaccheus, who thought the best entertainment he could afford his Lord, when He graciously entered into his house, was this, “Lord, the half of my goods I give unto the poor, and if I have done any wrong to any man, I restore fourfold.”

Remember the good Mary, who laid up all that she had, in order that she might do honour to her Lord, and anoint His sacred Person, when He was come into the village where she dwelt, and the house in which she was. She had before thought the best mode to entertain him, was to choose the good part, and to listen to His word.

Remember Matthew the publican, who gave up all that he had, and when Christ came into his house, laboured with a holy charity to bring all persons into blessed union, to hear the words of, his beloved Master. The Pharisee was there, and the publican also, the disciples of John, the Scribes, and the half-Gentiles, together with our Lord’s own disciples. Differing so much in many things, so much opposed to each other, yet they were all met together in this house of Levi, that they might hear his Lord’s Divine instructions.

Remember that no man who had the gracious privilege of receiving our blessed Saviour under his roof, obtained from His own sacred lips, so much praise and favour as that Centurion, who, because he was a Gentile, feared to approach, but stayed afar off, and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.”

The first step, therefore, which we must attain to, in order that we may receive the blessings that go forth from Christ’s Presence, as coming more nearly to dwell among us, and to be with us, is self-sacrifice. The next to this is bountifulness to the poor. Thirdly, we must practice that live and active charity which is shewn by labouring to bring all men, as far as may be, into His one fold, into the hearing of His sacred voice. But lastly, and chief of all, is unfeigned humility of heart and life, which stands afar off, and can scarce believe that Holiness so divine and unspeakable, can admit to its near approach unworthiness so great. Yea, though we scarce dare to believe and hope it, yet to him shall the promises of God be abundantly fulfilled, “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 Jacob.”

“BLESSED be God for this good day, and for the many opportunities of serving Him. Grant, O Lord, that we may not receive Thy grace in vain, but that we may live as becometh Christians who believe and hope for the joys of Heaven. Reward all that do us good, and especially all such as watch for the souls of others; grant that they may save themselves, and such as hear them, that both may enjoy an everlasting Sabbath with Thy Saints in Heaven, through the merits of Jesus Christ.”