Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Song High Above the Trees - A Homily for Christmas I, 2010

Homily for Christmas 1, Year A, 2010
Sunday, December 26th, 2010
Trinity Anglican Church, Bradford, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: Matthew 2:13-23

“Herod… was infuriated and he killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under.”
-Matthew 2:16

My wife Athena and I enjoy the television program Madmen. It is the story of a 1960’s Madison Avenue Ad agency which paints a picture not only of that wild world of advertising, but also of everyday middle-class 1960’s life. Although, the events slightly predate us, we share a cultural memory from our early childhoods of the flavor of the day. Many of the little ordinary aspects of daily life that are depicted in that show ring true for us. For example, we both remember sleeping in the back window of the car on long car trips. We remember people smoking everywhere. We remember littering without much sense of consequence to the earth. Many who worked through that period will remember alcohol in the office and sexism and racism in the workplace. What the show depicts so poignantly, though, are those moment that are seared into our cultural consciences, namely events like the freedom marches, the Kennedy assassination and, of course, the Cuban missile crisis.

Although the Cuban missile crisis occurred before I was born, it served as a sign for my generation that we were on the brink of nuclear destruction. Indeed, we grew up in the seventies and eighties believing we would not live to see adulthood. The pessimism and angst of that age seems so far away now. It is now replaced though, for a new generation with wars on terror and the terrors of counter-terrorism. It is replaced by foreign wars in which we are involved that I can scarcely understand and dare not justify. Thus, while the circumstances have changed, our proclivity to hurt one another has not. It is easy for pessimism and angst to grip up once again.

Yet, into our moments of pessimism and angst, a light breaks forth. In the car, listening to my favourite classical music station the other day, I heard the Christmas carol, “Said the night wind to the little lamb,” and I learned something that I did not know, that is probably not news to the rest of you, that this song was written and first performed during the Cuban missile crisis as a plea for peace.

It begins almost as a whisper and finally swells with grandeur as the message of peace is proclaimed throughout the world.

This is how it goes:

Said the night wind to the little lamb
Do you see what I see
Way up in the sky little lamb
Do you see what I see
A star, a star
Dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear
A song, a song
High above the tree
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know
In your palace wall mighty king
Do you know what I know
A child, a child
Shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Let us bring him silver and gold

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light

It seems to me that the world of first century Judea, a world ruled by a tyrant king with so tentative a grip on power that he chooses to slaughter innocent children, is not so different from the world at any time and place in human history. Terror is terror in any age, as the mothers of slain innocents in first century Judea knew only too well. It is surely not so different from a 1960’s whose existence hung on the decisions of Kennedy and Kruschev. The angst we feel from age to age, whether it be the angst of older veterans who are haunted still by the things they saw in Europe or the South pacific during the second world war, or the angst my generation knew under the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, or the angst this new generation must feel in an age of terror and counter terror, is not so different or alien that we cannot understand what it is to live under fear.

But fortunately, there is voice above the trees that calls out in the night, “Fear not!” It is a voice that proclaims to shepherds abiding in the fields that the fearful reality they know need not be the reality into which they live. It is a voice that proclaims to a young couple that through their love and care of a little child, peace will indeed come into the earth. It is a voice in the wind that awakens us from our fear and pessimism and angst. And dare we say it, it is a voice that can indeed form in our own mouths, be we kings or lowly shepherds and proclaim to the world a word of peace. It is a voice that says no to war, no to missiles, no to terror. It is a voice that says no to domestic violence, no to bullying in our schools, and no the hurt we cause others through shame and anger. But it is not primarily a voice that cries no, but a voice that cries YES. Yes, to peace, yes, to love, yes to hope. It is a voice that changes things, a voice that can make tyrants stand down, a voice that transforms our hearts and conforms us into the image and likeness of God. It is a voice of humility and a voice of new life.

Listen to the night wind and you will hear that “yes” and through an encounter with the tiny child, born in a stable, you will be given the boldness and courage to proclaim peace to people everywhere.

c. 2010, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves
words and music for "Said the Night Wind to the Little Lamb" by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Witnesses to the Light - A Homily for Christmas Morning, 2010

A Homily for Christmas Morning, 2010
Saturday, December 25th, 2010
Trinity Anglican Church, Bradford, On
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: John 1:1-14

“The Word became flesh.”
-John 1:14


When the sky clouds over, and the snow falls, and darkness reigns for days, oh, how we long for the light! When the days shorten and darkness falls earlier and earlier and the rising of the sun seems so distant and so faint, oh, how we long to feel the rays of warmth on our faces! When night falls and sleep refuses to come and the hours of darkness seem interminable, oh, how we long for the morn to break forth.


In a world of dark thoughts and bleak futures, where is the light? In a world where the weak are forgotten and our human worth is counted by the dark measure of our spending habits, where is the light? In a world where aged mothers and fathers sit forgotten in the darkness of loneliness, and little children cower in the darkness of domestic violence, where is the light?


As soldiers take up arms and march into the darkness of war; as the rulers of this age measure out lives in dark, sterile terms like “collateral damage,” where is the light?

There was a man from God named John. He was not the light, but rather, a witness to the light. He came to testify to the light, to a people who walked in deep darkness, and longed, oh how they longed, to see the light. To them it was but a dream, a hope, a prayer. The light that burned within them seemed so dim, nearly extinguished – it was there, but oh how it needed fanning by the breath of love. Could the light be kindled again? Could the flame be fanned? They hoped and dared dream. The true light which enlightens everyone was coming into the world. For them it was a hope and a dream. For us it is a reality.

The Word became flesh and although darkness threatens, but cannot envelop us. Though darkness falls, it shall not smother us. Though the night comes, the lamp burns and shall not be extinguished, for the darker it gets, the brighter the light of the Word of God burns. And where is the light? Shall we seek it on a distant shore? Is it burning in some distant heaven? No. It is here, in this world, shining its rays into the darkest corners, into the gloomiest places, into the saddest hearts. It is here – the true light that enlightens everyone has come into the world. The Word became flesh, and in his life, we find our life.


Where the light shines, Life is found in abundance; where the flame of love burns, there can be no darkness; where the Spirit of God blows, the winds of night will never extinguish the light: there is and ever will be Life, for that Life is the light of all people.


Into a world of death, Life is born; not fleeting life, but eternal and abundant Life. Into a world of death, Life is born and death will not defeat it or destroy it. Though darkness will fall and cover the earth at midday and many will believe that hope is lost, hope shall not be destroyed for Life cannot be destroyed by death, nor will Love be overwhelmed the darkness of anger, hate, or fear.


Into a world of brokenness, Love is born. To hearts that weep with sadness, Love sows compassion. To lives filled with loneliness, Love becomes a companion. Into lives written off in sin and the darkness of mistaken purpose, Love brings healing and redemption.


Light became flesh. Eternal life became flesh. Love became flesh. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Before us his glory illuminates the world casts away the darkness, for the darkness can neither understand it nor withstand it. Upon us he bestows his light, his life, and his love. Within us his glory shines and unveils our deepest darkest places. Around us his light lifts the darkness of the world and restores relationships and opens the way of peace.

Like John the Baptist of old, we are a people sent from God to testify to the light. We are not the light, and yet we are enlightened by the light. We witness to the light; the true light of love that has that has come into the world. As we adore Christ our God this morn, may our adoration be a witness to the light, and may this world know the radiance of the Word made flesh.

c. 2010, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves

Friday, December 24, 2010

We've Heard it all Before - A Homily for Christmas Eve, 2010

A Homily for Christmas Eve, 2010
Friday, December 24th, 2010
Trinity Anglican Church, Bradford
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: Luke 2:1-10

“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place.”
--Luke 2:15

The skeptic might say, “We’ve heard it all before,” and choose to stay home. Indeed, by the time Christmas Eve rolls around, the skeptic might be right – from the time that Hallowe’en decorations are put away until the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, we will have heard the Christmas bells for two solid months. Why should we come together on this night sing the carols that have played without stop since November 1st and hear once again the story of a man and his pregnant wife, the birth of their son in a lowly stable, the song of angels and the awe of shepherds? Why? What is there to be gained from one more round of singing and one more telling of the story? We have heard it all before.

But ah! We have heard it all before! And the story beckons us into its presence and calls us deep into its narrative, inviting us to participate as a shepherd, or bystander, or yes, even a as chorus of angels. The story beckons us once again and we heed the words and come. We join the happy throng that proclaims that Christ is born. Because we have heard it all before, we come. Did we once as children wrap ourselves in a towel or ragged cloth and play a shepherd? Did once a beloved Sunday school teacher enfold us in an oversized choir surplice and place coat hanger wings upon our shoulders and a tinsel halo upon our heads? Were we once given the sacred task of holding a simple doll, transformed this night into a holy child, and rock it in our arms while parents and grandparents looked on, faces aglow, with joy, to see us participating in that old, old story? Were we called upon to be Joseph, Mary, an innkeeper, and angel, or even a sheep, donkey or star? Did we once, wearing five and dime (or dollar store) crowns make the journey down the nave of the church, as wise men once from the east came, to worship the newborn king? And even if we have not participated in such retellings of the story, have we not come from generation to generation, holding the hands of mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, to sing the song of the angels, to journey even in spirit with shepherds and wise men, and kneel before the stable, offering our hearts to the King of Kings, born in low estate?

Ah, we have heard it all before, and what joy that story brings! We have heard it all before and we have shared it all before. In its telling and retelling, in our acting and reenacting of the story, the story shapes us and shapes our lives. The story works away in our hearts and melts away our hardness, our skepticism, our bitterness, and our cynicism. The story, though it be known so well, changes us and transforms us again and again.

We have heard it all before, and as the days slip on the story recedes into the backs of our minds and rests sleepily somewhere in the depths of our hearts. As the days of the year wear on and we face the hardships of life and inevitable sadness that comes simply in the act of living in a world with pain and loss, doubt sets in. As the days slip on, the story becomes one that is harder to hear, harder to believe, harder to tell. The days slip on and the nights become interminably longer and the story disappears into the depths our cultural amnesia, barely visible, barely audible. Just as it seems the dawn will never come and the darkness will never lift, a poor couple emerges from the darkness and find their way once again to a stable and once again a child is born to us.

We have heard it all before, and so we know from the depths of our beings what comes next: in that region, in some region deep within our hearts, shepherds are once again stirred by the angels’ song. And once again, deep within the winter of our souls the ice begins to melt and the story begins to warm us and proclaim to us a song of hope and joy that the darkness is being lifted and the night is far spent. Because we have heard it all before we hear the call to “come and see!” The Lord has worked a miracle and that miracle is not simply the birth of babe in Bethlehem, but the birth of hope for a troubled world and troubled lives. The story that weaves its way into the fabric of our lives is the story of hope for you and for me that though I may sink, from time-to-time, into a dark place I will not be abandoned there but will yet see the dawn break forth and rejoice and be glad that hope springs eternal.
We have heard it all before, and because we have heard it all before the old, old story is always a new and exciting story, because it is a story that changes lives. It is a story, that once told, can never be forgotten and once heard forever leaves the stamp of the divine life on our hearts. It is a story that enacts itself again and again within us and shapes us over and over and over again, molding us into the fullness of beauty that God intends for all his creatures.

We have heard it all before and we come to hear it all again, but not only to hear, but to participate, to journey, to allow ourselves to be shaped by the story of God amongst us, within us, reshaping us, and reshaping the world. We come to see this thing that has taken place, to hear this story, not because it someone else’s fascinating story, but because it is our story. It is the story of our life!

Can you believe, though, that some have not heard it? Some lives have never been shaped by it? Some have never had the wings placed on their shoulders or been wrapped in towels and blankets? Can you believe that some have never held the holy child in their arms and let him work the power of his story in their lives and hearts?

God made this world the stage for his story, and we are the actors, we are the shepherds, the magi, the angels and the holy family, whose lives have been shaped by an encounter with our God in the presence of the tiny child. This is our story, and it is good news for the world. As our lives have been shaped by it, let us sing the story with all our heart and live the story with all our being on the world’s stage that it might become the story of ages for a broken and hurting world. Glory to God in the highest.

c. 2010, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hope Blooms in the Desert - A Homily for Advent III, Year A, 2010

Homily for Advent III, Year A, 2010
Sunday, December 12th, 2010
Trinity Anglican Church, Bradford, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: Isaiah 35:1-10

Listening to the news this week, it is becoming clear that Barak Obama has lost his lustre. It was but a short time ago that the hopes and dreams of America were all pinned on this one man. He could only stand to fail to live up to the expectations that he set for himself and the expectations placed upon him by the American people. In fact, last year around this time I remember a comment that I made in a sermon that this was all bound to happen sooner rather than later, and as much as I like the man, I was pretty sure that he was likely not the messiah, contrary to popular opinion. Closer to home, a messiah has risen on the political right. Toronto has a new mayor, and all the hopes and dreams of people of the opposite political stripe to those who would claim to support a Barak Obama are pinned on this man. Like Obama, though, it is clear that the lustre will wear off in short order as well. While Rob Ford has got off to an aggressive start in turning his platform into political reality, he is being met with much opposition and the city hall battles are beginning once again. It can be easy to see why people may feel apathetic to the political process when the lustre wears off any given administration, be they left or right.

None of this is said to disparage those who offer themselves for public service, nor is it to disparage the political process itself. Coming from a family of civil servants I am deeply appreciate those who serve their communities either as elected officials or as professional public servants. The health and well-being of a community is, in large part, the result of the hard work of the people who serve our communities as teachers, librarians, firefighters, police service officers, transit employees, municipal workers, and yes, elected politicians. The combined efforts of these and other professionals serve to create a public sphere in which we can enjoy the fruit of the good society.

And yet, people being people, we have differing views of what the good society is all about. We fight about its meaning and we offer our hopes and dreams to each other. Sadly though, we take delight in dashing each other’s hopes and dreams. And then we take further delight in deriding the one finds themself unable to keep his or her promises. Where we have the potential to come together as a people, the darkness of sin drives us apart and we hurt, rather than build up our fellow citizens.

This phenomenon is nothing new. The world into which the prophet Isaiah spoke was a world of political disappointment; a world in which hope would rise and fall with every new ruler, with every new direction, with every new platform and with every new administration. Between foreign captivity and disappointing kings, the Hebrew people had every reason to give up on hope; and yet, into their despair Isaiah spoke these words, “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.”

Perhaps these words were received with skepticism. Perhaps; but they were recorded and repeated generation after generation by people who knew much despair and much disappointment. They are repeated even unto this day. They are words that we repeat in Advent because they are words that pierce through the frailty of our humanity, and speak hope to hearts when hope is dashed and promises are broken. What is the hope that these words proclaim? That hope shall continue to blossom, that we shall taste its fruit, even as we journey from disappointment to disappointment.

This is a promise that comes not from human lips but from the mouth of the Lord. While it is that these words speak to a time beyond our time, about a kingdom that is to come, about the culmination of a history in which all things are gathered up in God, they are also words that speak to another reality though, and that is a reality that is set among us, in Christ Jesus. They speak to the reality of God’s presence in the birth of a tiny babe in Bethlehem, God incarnate, God in our midst. They speak to the reality of the presence of that same incarnate God through his abiding Spirit animating our shared life. They speak to the reality of Christ’s presence in the words of Sacred Scripture. They speak to the reality of his abiding presence in our sacramental sharing of his body and blood.

Most importantly, though, these words speak to us when all around have fallen away and we feel most alone, forsaken, and abandoned by broken promises of human hope. When hope should fail us because there is nothing left to cling to, hope prevails because it is the hope of God that rescues us. If we rely only on our own ability to manufacture hope, we shall be perennially disappointed, but if we shift our point of view for but a moment, we will realize that hope is not created by human hearts or human hands, but finds its wellspring in the heart of God. You see, God has hope for us. God believes in us. God has faith in us; and this is the hope to which we cling as Christian people, that is, God’s relentless desire for us to know joy, peace and love. The fruit of God’s faithfulness is our ability to know such things in him in Christ.

One of my favourite pieces of Christmas music is called “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.” Whereas the eating the fruit of the tree in the Garden of Eden condemned humanity to death, the eating of fruit of the apple tree which is Jesus Christ gives us life.

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit, and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared to Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile;
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Last year I read a post by a fellow Anglican blogger, Laurel Masse, who said that this is her life in a song. I believe it is the story of my life, too. Perhaps it is the story of our shared humanity. We cannot manufacture faith. We cannot manufacture hope. We cannot manufacture joy, peace or love. These things come from God, but God does share them with overflowing abundance and grace. In the midst of political angst and uncertainty, in the midst of our apathy, in the midst of doubt, “This fruit does make my soul to thrive and keeps my dying faith alive.” When hope seems lost, God sets before us a tree in the desert and that tree is nothing less than God himself, in Jesus Christ. Isaiah tells us that there is a highway that winds its way through the desert, and as we journey along that road we find that hope blossoms like crocuses, valleys are exalted and rough place made plain. Should we be surprised to find along that road an apple tree bearing the fruit of life? Weary with our toil, let us rest for a moment under the tree and find the happiness and hope we long have sought.

A moment under the tree and we shall learn that whether kings rise or fall, whether promises are kept or broken, whether we succeed or whether we fail we can take heart that hope cannot be obliterated for we do not create it, we only share it. The fruit of Jesus Christ the Apple Tree we are called to share. Share it we will, and share it we must, for it is the tree of the fruit of life that blossoms without end and for healing of the nations. We rise from our rest under that tree, having tasted its goodness and we take up our way again on the road, but this time sharing the fruit of Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, sharing the hope that good will indeed will reign among people, even if only in fleeting moments until such a time that all things find their consummation in the fruit of hope that awaits us all.

c. 2010 the Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Jesus Christ the Appletree - Words Anonymous (New England c. 18th century)
Music - Elizabet Poston (1905 - 1987).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Prepare the Way of the Lord - A Homily for Advent II, Year A, 2010

A Homily for Advent II, Year A, 2010
Sunday, December 5th, 2010
Trinity Anglican Church, Bradford, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: Matthew 3:1-12

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
-Matthew 3:3 (quoting Isaiah 40)

As I have shared with you before, as a child I was always one who had a terrible time waiting for Christmas morning. Given the chance, I would have opened my presents at the earliest moment possible. Fortunately, my parents always had the good sense to make us boys wait. While other families we knew had this enviable tradition of allowing their children to open just one present on Christmas Eve, this was strictly forbidden in our house. As I reflect back with benefit of age and parenting experience, I now believe my parents were wise in teaching us that good things are worth waiting for.

I suppose I haven’t grown up that much since then. This is still hard today. While I am less excited about opening presents, I find great joy in watching others; especially those close to me tear the paper away from the gifts piled under the tree. And given the chance, I could easily yield to the temptation of my children who annually plead with me, “just one present Dad; can we please just open one present early?!” I must admit, I have to fight off every urge within me to allow it, and consequently deliver that heart-breaking resounding “no!” Fortunately for me, Athena is a strong partner in this heartless act. I have to keep telling myself, and the children, that good things are worth waiting for.

So what do we do while we wait? We make preparation. Until the hour strikes and the gift is given, we wait and prepare. And thus spake St. John the Baptist, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” The preparation to which St. John calls his followers, though, is of a strange sort. It does not involve “trimming the hearth and setting the table,” nor does it involve any of the other requisite “hauling out the holly,” or “setting up the tree before my spirits fall again,” or even “carols at the ‘spinnit.’” Rather, it is a work of self-examination. In order to prepare for the coming of the Lord, St. John the Baptist exhorts us to consider the ways in which we have failed ourselves and each other, how we have been hypocrites about what we claim to believe, and about how we have overindulged in unhealthy and unhelpful behaviours. Most importantly, having examined ourselves, we are called to repent.

Now, I sense that this exhortation probably lands with a resounding “thud” into the midst of our pre-Christmas celebrations. “Oh, Father Dan,” you might say, “trimming the tree is so much more fun!” It is true that you will get no argument with me about that. I love trimming the tree with some good carols on the “spinnit.” But let us consider for a moment the nature and purpose of that special gift that is set before us; that gift comes not under the tree or wrapped in paper, but rests under the precarious shelter of the roof of a cattle stable and is wrapped in swaddling bands. This gift, the most precious gift of all, the one for which we wait, is given to us a salve for our human wounds and a balm for our bruised souls. This gift is given to mend broken hearts and broken relationships. It is offered to restore wholeness to broken lives and bring joy to all who have lost their way. This gift is no ordinary gift. No, it is the most amazing of gifts – the gift of Emmanuel, God with us.

Oh, how we long for such a gift and all its benefits. How can we wait for Christmas morning? How can we wait to receive such a blessing and offering of grace? But we must. We must wait and we must prepare. The preparation that is set before us is the preparation of the heart. It is time for us to look within ourselves and realize just how much we need that most precious of gifts and to search out our own brokenness and discover exactly the wounds to which that salve will be applied and the bruises that the balm of Christ will soothe. And most importantly, to search ourselves and understand that there is nothing I can do to heal my wounds, but with the Lord all things are possible: Come, Lord Jesus.

Where meek hearts will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.

c. 2010 the Rev. Daniel F. Graves

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Revised Edwardian Homily On Salvation

A Homily for Monday in the Week of Advent I
Framed and Based on the Second of Part of the Edwardian Homily on Salvation
Preached at the Trinity College Chapel
Monday, November 29th, 2010
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves (after Archbishop Thos. Cranmer)
Text: Matthew 8:5-13
(Scriptural References are from the Great Bible of 1539)

Dear friends in Christ, ye have heard how all men ought to seek their justification and righteousness, and how this righteousness commeth unto men by Christ’s death and merits. As good Christian folk ye shall also know that three things are required to the obtaining of our righteousness, that is, God’s mercy, Christ’s justice, and a true and lively faith out of the which faith springeth good works. Yet, ye shall also be aware dear friends, that no man can be justified by his own good works, that no man fulfilleth the law, according to the full request of the law.

These things are of course also attested by St. Paul in both his epistle to the Church in Galatia and in the epistle written to the church in Ephesus. After this wise, to be justified only by this true and lively faith in Christ, speaketh all the old and ancient authors, including Hilary, Basil, and Ambrose. Yet even as these good and ancient authors attesteth (and many more are there to be numbered amongst them) that we are justified by faith, nevertheless, this is not so meant of them, that that the said justifying faith is alone in man, without true repentance, hope, charity, dread, and the fear of God, at any time and season. Nor when they say, that we be justified freely, they mean not that we should or might afterwards be idle, and nothing thereafter required of our part. But this saying, that we be justified by faith only, freely, and without works, is spoken for to take away clearly all merit of our works, as being able to deserve justification at God’s hands, and thereby mostly plainly to express the weakness of man and the goodness of God. This faith the holy scripture teacheth us; this is the strong rock and foundation of Christian religion; this doctrine all old and ancient authors of Christ’s church do approve and setteth for the true glory of Christ, and beateth down the vainglory of man.

Hence we consider that centurion of old, of whom we learn in eighth chapter of St. Matthew, who besought our Lord in consideration of the burthen he knew in the suffering of his servant who lyeth at home sick of the palsye, greviously pained. That dear centurion, having a throrough and full understanding of his own unworthiness before our Lord, pleadeth unto him with such humility, “Syr, I am not worthy, that thou shuldest come under my rofe; but speake the worde only and my servaunt shall be healed.”

What greater humility was ever known in one man than the humility of this centurion who was not a son of Israel? Yet this man understood that our Lord has ordered all things mightily and in an orderly fashion when he said, “For I also my selfe am a man subject to the aucthoryte of another; and have soudiers under me, and I saye to this man, go, he goeth: to another come, and he cometh, and to my servaunt do this and he doeth it.” Our Lord, having been moved by such sensible and true words, marveled and sayd to them them that followed hym: “Verily, I saye unto you I have not founde so great fayth in Israel. I say unto you that men shal come from the eest and west, and shall rest with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kyngdome of heaven.”

With the eyes of God’s mercy and through the merits of Christ’s justice, our Lord gazed upon the countenance of the centurion of old and drew forth from the well of his soul the waters of a true and lively faith such that not only the centurion knew, that day, the mercy and justice of the Lord, but so too, the servant gripped by the palsye, and indeed the whole retinue, knew and tasted the salvation of our God. Thus, being sent upon his way, the centurion, knew the justifying strength of our Lord to heal and to save.

But think not, dear friends that such a justification was wrought by any righteousness on the part of the centurion, but rather hold fast to the truth that justification is not the office of man but of God. The faith of the centurion directed him only to the Lord and the wideness of his mercy. Meditate thoroughly on the story of the centurion and you will find that ye too, indeed all present, although we hear God’s word, and believe it; although we have faith, hope and charity, repentance, dread and fear of God within us, and do never so many works thereunto; yet we must renounce the merit of all our said virtues, as weak and insufficient, and trust only in God’s mercy as that centurion did.

The centurion knew whereof he spake, although he commandeth others, he knew that he liveth under the sovereignty of another and that no good work should raise him from his post to command those things wereof he had no authority to command. To such an end, our Lord saw no faith equal to his in Israel and in such a faith the wideness of God’s mercy was thereby known that “many shall come from eest and west to … to rest with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kyngdome of heaven.” The work of man justifieth not, and the wideness of God’s justice and mercy knoweth not the boundary of nations. Trust only in God’s mercy, and that sacrifice which our high priest and Saviour, Christ Jesus, the son of God, once offered upon the cross, to obtain thereby God’s grace and remission, as well of our original sin in baptism, as of all actuall sin committed in us after our baptism, if we truly repent, and turn unfeignedly to him again.

Even so, as great and good and as godly a virtue as the lively faith is, yet it putteth us from itself, and remitteth or appointeth us unto Christ (as it did the centurion), for to have only, by our Lord, remission of our sins, or justification. So that our faith in Christ saith unto us thus: It is not I that take away your sins, but it is Christ only; and to him only I send you for that purpose, forsaking therein all your good virtues, words, thoughts, and works, and only putting your trust in Christ.