The Twenty Fourth Sunday after Trinity 2017
The Epistle – Colossians 1:3-12
The Gospel – St. Matthew 9:18-26
Article 36 - Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
This Article today, number 36, is another important one. Our version in the 1928 has some updated wording but the thrust of the Article remains constant.
The issue at hand is the validity of orders.
The validity of the ordination that a Bishop, priest or deacon undergoes in the Anglican Church.
It refers to the Book of Consecration.
It should be noted up front that first of all the Ordinal, which begins on page 527 of our Prayer Book was not originally printed in the same book as the rest of the Prayer Book.
So, when an ordination took place, the Ordinal Book was used along side the Prayer Book. Only later were the Prayer portion of the Prayer Book and the Ordinal and the 39 Articles bound in one book.
Either way, the issue comes down to this:
At the time of the Reformation in England, and the dawn of the new Book of Common Prayer that Archbishop Cranmer developed, the Prayer Book did not follow exactly the wording of the Roman Rite.
As we have seen all along in this Sermon Series, the English Church desired reform.
It found certain things it had been practicing had grown out of an incorrect understanding of the early Church and her practices….or a misreading of the Bible due to poor or incorrect translation.
There was resistance to change, of course, from some and that is common in the Church. When changes are made people wonder what is happening.
We all get used to doing things the way they have always been done and as new discoveries were made….. at least back then, changes were implemented which were always directed as enhancing and enriching the Christian’s worship of God.
The desire of the church and those who seek to reform it are (or at least should be) concerned with the welfare of the people and their spiritual life.
So the Article today addresses ordination.
One of the first things we should know and realize is that the Bible is not specifically clear about ordination in that what we find in it is very simple and plain.
Some of the ministers in the Church would lay their hands on a man and make him a deacon or a presbyter. Some sort of prayer was said and they would then begin to function in that office.
As time went on, forms of ordination were developed and shared and yet one of the things the Reformers noticed or discovered was that there never seems to have been a set form or exact wording that was used universally.
There is an intention to make a minister.
That is what was more at the heart of the ordination, rather than having every word follow one specific formula or the ordination was invalid.
Rome, on the other hand likes to keep things very top down and uniform…which can and does work well most of the time.
However in this case, even when it was pointed out that men were ordained for over 1500 years and different prayers and forms were used… the ordination was considered valid.
So this Article today is a defense of the Anglican form found in that book that is called the Ordinal.
In 1896, Pope Leo XIII issues a Papal Bull (bulla meaning seal) An official proclamation from the Pope on Anglican Orders.
It is called Apostolicae Curae. In it he declares Anglican Orders to be “Absolutely Null and Utterly Void.”
This was on the grounds that …as Rome mistakenly believed, that when an Anglican performed an ordination, there was a “deficiency in intention.”
It was an intention to create a priesthood different from the established Church. Recall our discussion on the Sacrifice of the Mass or the Sacrifice on the Altar.
Anglicans reject the notion that Christ is sacrificed on the altar at the Eucharist so in ordaining deacons and priests, the intention of an Anglican ordination does not have the same sacrificing element and understanding that Rome’s does.
Anglicanism is always looking to see what the early Church did…what the early Church Fathers testify to and write about and find ways to conform to early and less corrupted ways.
So it comes down to a matter of intention. The Anglican ordination desires to do what they found in the majority of early Latin Rites and Eastern Orthodox Rites and follow those.
There have been plenty of books written on the error of Rome to issue such a bull. Even some Roman theologians find the declaration to be mistaken, outdated and flat out wrong.
But this is part of the unfortunate division between the two communions.
When Rome retracts the Apostolicae Curae, then things might be more amicable. Until then, we remain divided over this issue. Friendly but divided.
From other New Testament passages especially in Acts, we find really only the laying on of hands, prayer (but not the exact words) and in a few places the mention of fasting…
most likely on the part of both the man to be ordained and the men about to do the ordination.
But this is not the place to defend what needs no defense. Anglican orders are both Catholic and Apostolic.
There is the background.
This Article only has a passing relation to the Propers for today however.
Paul in the Epistle section you heard says this, “Colossians 1:3–8
He is writing to Colossae.
He starts the letter saying that it is he and Timothy who are coming together to write this letter and this is why he begins at times saying, “We always thank God” rather than “I always thank God.”
 “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,  since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,  because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,  which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,  just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.
He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf  and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.” (ESV)
We have mention here of the leader of this Church. The presbyter most likely… Epaphras.
We know nothing about him other than his name. We can figure though that Paul ordained him when planting this Church.
And it is the message of the lessons for today that are at stake and what Paul and Timothy are telling us and are actually setting as an example for those who are called and ordained to preach the Gospel.
Much time is spent on the preaching of the Gospel and then telling the people of God how they are to live in light of it's message.
Paul sort of summarizes it here in the first few lines and then more clearly in the rest of the text for today.
 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.”
So Paul shows that part of the role of the minister of the Gospel is to keep the people of God in prayer. Think about them and their situations and be prayerful, asking God to give them patience if it's suffering. Joy if it's something to celebrate.
He goes on, “…since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,  because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel.”
He has heard of their faith and of the love they are exhibiting for their fellow Christians.
And what has given them such faith and love? He says, “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.”
Here is what they heard in the message of the Gospel. Or as Paul calls it here, “the Word of truth.”
The truth of the Gospel or the Word of truth is the message that is prompting the saints in this Church to have so much love and faith.
The message is, “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.”
As Christians contemplate the life of heaven…. the joy, the happiness, the pain free, age free, sin free life in heaven, they call this ‘the hope.’
Again, hope in this and other verses does not mean wishing. Paul speaks of hope as something that is for sure and waited for.
Hope is an expectation or the belief in the fulfillment of something desired.
So much of the time, we live looking to the future with a mixture of longing and fear.
The Bible contrasts living in fear rather than hope, as being in the world without God. Paul says, “remember that you were at that time (before you were a Christian) separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Eph 2:12)
We then tend to seek hope or comfort in the world and by our own efforts and sometimes with the mindset of inevitability.
But this is why we turn our attention back to the events that give us hope. For one, we look to the Resurrection of Christ. This brings hope to us in the midst of suffering and trials…that they are not permanent.
And we can say it is a catalyst for human effort to stand firm and over come that suffering.
We are closing in on Christmas and Advent is the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas.
The Incarnation. Christ coming down, taking on human flesh and bringing salvation is also where our minds should be turned for hope.
Moreover, Paul tells sys that despite what we see around us, the hope laid up for us in heaven…has come to us and it is spreading throughout the whole world and it is bearing fruit and increasing.
It certainly doesn't look like that if we look around or watch the news.
But the hope is what turns our attention away from the false, lack of hope, gloomy portrait we see around us and focuses our attention back on the certainty of what is laid up for us in heaven.
It’s bearing fruit. It is spreading. We may not see it much in our own communities.
But it seems pretty axiomatic that where the Gospel is undergoing the most persecution…that is precisely where it is spreading and bearing fruit.
And all of this is based on the faithfulness of God.
Epaphras was telling his people about the Gospel on a regular basis. This pulpit here in this Church is for the same message.
We are in a continuous line with the saints who have gone before us.
The ordained ministers in the Church, rightly ordained are also in line with those who have gone before them.
Epaphras’ orders are no different than Christ’s ministers today, rightly ordained.
And he was so sure of the hope for the future for his people that through the authority of his ministry and orders, he told them about it again and again so that they could withstand the persecution they were probably undergoing….just as we withstand anything that opposes us today.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.