Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Third Sunday after the Epiphany.

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle. Romans 12:16c-21 (ESV)

Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The Gospel. St. Matthew 8:1-13 (ESV)

When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Four Kinds of Folks

My friend and Systematic Theology professor, R.J. Gore, Jr., a Chaplain (Colonel) in the Army Reserve and and Iraqi War veteran, has talked about writing a book entitled Ten Things I Learned in the Army That I Should've Learned in Church. I hope he does, for military life has many, many lessons that transfer not only to ecclesiastical life but family and business life as well. Most, but not all, of these have to do with the subject of leadership.

Years ago, while still in high school in fact, I read Small Unit Leadership: A Commonsense Approach by COL Dandridge M. "Mike" Malone, USA (Ret.). COL Malone began his career as a Private in 1951 and retired from the Army in 1981. I'm not sure if he's still living -- I certainly hope so -- but his experience serving his country taught him much about the vital subject of leadership and I would commend his book not only to soldiers but also to corporate managers and clergy as well (both the world of business and most parishes need clear leadership).

One part of Malone's book that I found particularly helpful was a section where he list four categories in which every soldier in a squad, platoon, or company/troop/battery will ultimately fall. They are: willing and able, willing and unable, unwilling but able, and unwilling and unable.

Willing and Able

Obviously these are the types of folks all of us would love to have working for us, belonging to our parishes, etc. They are able to perform the task and want to do so. As Malone points out, the approach to these people is that of a coach -- give a minimum of guidance and get out of their way, allowing them to excel!

Willing and Unable

This is a place where each of us has found ourselves from time to time and no doubt will again. They want to do the task in question but do not have the knowledge required to do so. Ignorance is not, in and of itself, a problem but rather an opportunity to educate. The approach to these people is that of a teacher -- work with them, give them the knowledge needed, and then they will often pleasantly surprise you with the results.

Unwilling but Able

These people can do the job -- you know they can -- perhaps they have in the past, but for one reason or another will not do so now. Writing in a military context, perhaps for units deployed in a combat zone, Malone advises that these people should be approached as a warden (and not the kind found in parishes, either). That is the correct immediate approach in the Army, although I would suggest that in most contexts (and even in that one where time allows) one should first find out why they are unable. Perhaps something else in going on that, when addressed, would move them into the willing and able category; if so, help them so that they can excel. If it's merely a matter of motivational deficit disorder, then bring smoke as needed (in today's business world, most employers aren't going to have the patience to do so [replacing these employees is too easy] and in the church one can't really bring smoke [one can and should, however, realize the results one will get when placing folks in this category in charge of a task]).

Unwilling and Unable

These are people who, due to emotional and developmental reasons should never have been allowed in the Army. Malone suggests, rightly, that the approach to be taken when you have discovered someone in this category (which is pretty rare) is to process them out as soon as possible. Again, he's correct in that context. In the corporate world that's the answer as well.

But what of the church? First and foremost, one should realize that all of us, due to our sinful nature, are exactly there. As St. Paul points out, "None is righteous, no, not one." (Romans 3:10 ESV). Except for the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit, there we'll remain!

Obviously one can't process someone out of the church (one can, and when appropriate should, exercise Church Discipline but that's another matter entirely -- the goal is restoration) but the approach should be one of ministering to them (with boundaries) rather than promoting them to positions of leadership.

Malone's book is a classic and well worth a read. I haven't read it in at least 10 years (and probably considerably more than that) but the approach that he teaches is so effective that it's stuck with me.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth; Mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle. Romans 12:6-16 (ESV)

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

The Gospel. St. Mark 1:1-11 (ESV)

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The First Sunday after the Epiphany.

The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people who call upon thee; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle. Romans 12:1-5 (ESV)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

The Gospel. St Luke 2:41-52 (ESV)

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


The Epiphany, or the Manifestation of
Christ to the Gentiles

The Collect.

O GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This Collect to be said daily throughout the Octave.

The Epistle. Ephesians 3:1-12 (ESV)

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

The Gospel. St. Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV)

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The same Epistle and Gospel shall serve unto the next Sunday.