The Tenth Sunday after Trinity, 2017
The Epistle – 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
The Gospel – Luke 19:41- 47a
Article 19 – Of the Church
Article 20 – Of the Authority of the Church
Article 21 - Of the Authority of General Councils
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Church section today, he is talking about certain marks of the Church. He has just closed his remarks on how this Church had been misunderstanding and then misusing and even abusing the Lord’s Supper… Holy Communion.
He moves along to address another issue and this is what we are privy to today in our lesson; Spiritual Gifts.
The behavior of the Church’s members is to fall in line with and conform to the guiding principles laid down in Scripture.
We also draw from Ecumenical Councils and the writings of Church Fathers. But Scripture is always to remain supreme.
This is why these three Articles are before us today. They tie in somewhat to the discussion of St. Paul before us this morning.
It has been determined by this and other passages that each member of the Church…all of us possess gifts that are given to us by God which are to be used and exercised as members of Christ’s body.
Not all possess the same gifts. God has freely and yet purposely distributed them to each of us as He has seen fit.
And, we are to make use of them as members of the Church to the building up of one another…and for the stability of the Church….not the disruption of it.
We are to use them as Paul commands here, to edify one another, and not to show off…or cause strife and confusion.
We are to use them to the advancement of the Kingdom of God and not for personal gain.
We are to use them as God directs and not as we desire.
Paul says, ‘now when you were pagans, you were led astray by mute idols.’ They worshiped something that was not alive, did not speak to them and yet they somehow got direction from them and were in darkness.
But Paul tells them that they are now in the light as they are in Christ…so they are to stop acting as if they were uninformed.
There are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit. Meaning there are lots of different kinds of gifts that God gives, but they all originate from the same source.
They are all from the Holy Spirit.
There is a variety of ways in which we can serve in the Church.
There is a variety of activities.
All come from God and are to be used to serve God and one another.
There is no need to go into detail here breaking down these gifts as we will in a few weeks address this chapter and others when we address the gift of Tongues….
a much misunderstood and much misused aspect of the Holy Spirit’s gifts.
Paul here is working to restore order. From what we read in later Church Fathers, who also wrote to the Church in Corinth…things seemed to continue to be in disarray to some degree long after the death of Paul.
What must be emphasized is the desire of Paul that the Church on the one hand not stifle the gifts that God gives to His people to build up the Church and on the other hand not let them be misused or go unused….but that they be rightly used so the Church may flourish.
The Articles today are three in number and are related to one another. There is a string of doctrinal guidance here.
The progression seems to flow nicely so we will move through them hopefully hitting all of the high points.
Article 19 – Of the Church. This tells us that the Church is made up of a congregation of faithful men (women).
This should be obvious to us.
But here is what has been determined to be what are called the Marks of a Church or the Marks of a True Church.
Two elements or two ingredients must be present for a Church to rightly be considered a Church.
And those are…where the pure Word of God is preached and the Sacraments are duly administered.
Great attention and obedience to these aspects is placed on these at this parish in particular.
First the Word of God must be preached.
This is why preaching time is not a time for lectures, jokes, entertainment, personal stories, etc. If this is what people are looking for they will have to search elsewhere.
The Bible readings of the day are to be exposited. This means they are to be preached in such a fashion that the meaning is pulled out and when possible, applied to the lives of the hearers.
The Word of God must be preached…not the word of the minster. This is why the sermon is always bracketed by “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”
Because it is reminding both preacher and hearer that the one in the pulpit is speaking on behalf of God…so he must take great care.
This is not the minister’s time to veer off script from the liturgy (which is full of God’s Word in prayer and canticles and hymns)
The sermon or the preaching of God’s Word is to be a seamless continuation of what has come before in the way of opening song and prayer and Bible reading….and what comes after which is more prayer, reception of the Sacraments of Christ’s Body and Blood and more singing.
All are supposed to be in harmony as best as possible and are to be one movement or one body of thought or concept….from start to finish.
This is why the sermon is to be tied to the Bible readings of the day. Not just mentioned at the end briefly…or twisted to fit into some other topic.
What we hear read is then to be expounded upon so that we take what we have heard read to us and then go away from here being built up and edified by what we have learned about God and sometimes ourselves in those scripture readings.
This is why the preacher avoids hobbyhorse issues that are close to his heart…but are disconnected from the day’s Bible readings.
This is why politics and social issues are not to be preached on.
This is why the sermon length is roughly in line with the rest of the service so that there is balance and symmetry.
Hour long (or longer) sermons may work well in other settings where Church structure is less formal.
This is not to say that those are wrong to do that. But in liturgical settings and in this Anglican Church in particular, great thought and intention is put into making the service God honoring, God exalting, human being lowering worship.
Balanced worship of God.
The Prayer Book is a work of art in that it is well paced and well balanced. Nothing is cut short or left out. Nothing is too long or out of place.
Second, the Sacraments are to be rightly and duly administered.
The Lord’s Supper and Baptism are as we learned a few weeks ago are primarily what we are talking about.
Paul notes in his same letter there and was referred to earlier, that they were misusing and even abusing the Lord’s Supper and one another in the way in which it was carried out.
Some were getting drunk. Some were eating it ahead of others which others were not getting any and were going away unfed.
Not exactly sure what this all looked like but it certainly was not done decently and in order as Paul commands.
The Sacraments, especially because of their sacred nature, are to be handled reverently and used reverently and with care.
Each element on the altar is laid out carefully and symmetrically. We come to the rail quietly, receive quietly and return to our pews quietly….thinking on what we have just eaten and drunk…and what it symbolizes and represents and really is to and for us.
So these two elements are easy to preach on and could be talked about more, but there is more to the Articles for today.
Suffice it to say that the true Church must have these two elements in it to and be rightly used and administered for it to be an authentic Church.
The latter part of the Article mentions the Churches of Rome, Jerusalem, Alexandria, etc. because we believe that they at that time and to this day, deviate from the Scriptures somewhat in their understanding of preaching and sacraments.
The Article says that they are in error in matters of faith (as we are addressing in this series) or they are in error in matters of ceremony…which is also being addressed in this series.
The Church, according to Article 20 has power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith. Yet it is not lawful for it to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s written Word.
This means that the Church is what we are all under regarding authority, way of life, belief about God, what rites we use to worship by….what ceremonies we use to express and convey Christ to God’s people.
We are even by this to understand that the Church and what she teaches is to be supreme over all secular governments and authorities.
We are to obey civil governments when they ask us to do things that are in line with Scripture. But if they ask us to perform some act that contradicts what the Scriptures teach, we are to resist peacefully as best as we can.
But our conscience is not bound to the state but to the Word of God.
The Anglican Church has its rites and ceremonies enshrined in the Book of Common Prayer.
The Church is always under the authority of the Scriptures. It has no right, when teaching and preaching to teach or preach anything that is contrary to what the Bible teaches.
Finally there is the Authority of General Councils. This Article has a lot of background so we will get to the very basics of what it means…mainly for us….yet touching somewhat on it's history.
The first line may be strange to us and in fact does not apply to us. Princes or even Presidents do not call and gather Church Councils.
The Church does.
We have the very first Church Council (if you are curious as to it's proceedings) in the Book of Acts. Chapter 15
The first 21 verses are how it went. The arguments made from both sides…and the verdict.
Verses 22-29, the letter written to be distributed containing the verdict…and what the Churches were to obediently obey.
Verses 30-31 the letter is read publicly…and everyone rejoices at its words.
After that there is some conversation and the Church gets back to work evangelizing…in light of the verdict handed down.
The Article says that Councils may err and sometimes have erred in things pertaining to God.
Councils, though believed to be led by the Holy Spirit, are still made up of men.
This Article is written while the Roman Church was meeting in Council at Trent… regarding what to do about the Anglican Churches and other Protestant Churches and the Article was essentially preparing Anglicans for whatever Rome determined and decreed from their council.
Some of the very things other Articles have addressed and will address in future sermons are the very things referred to as errors.
To be clear, the Church of God and of His Christ shall never fail. The Gates of hell shall not prevail against it ever. It is an eternal Kingdom, never to fade.
The elect of God make up the Church. We are members of that Church as Anglican Christians.
Paul wrote and taught and worked hard to ingrain that in the minds of the Churches he planted and loved so very much.
The section from the Epistle today is a small piece of evidence of his passion and love for the Church.
We too must love the Church and always seek to dwell together in unity and peace.
To close, St. Peter writes these words. They apply to us today as well.
2 Peter 1:3-11
His [God’s] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them [we] may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (ESV)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.