Sermon: John Coleridge Patteson and Companions

The podcast can be found here.

Image: The Martyrdom of John Coleridge Patteson – one of three scenes carved into the pulpit at Exeter Cathedral. (source)

At the age of fourteen, John Patteson knew he was going to be a priest. At the age of twenty-seven, he was. He grew up in England, and in 1855 would go to serve in Melanesia, a chain of some 10,000 islands off the northeast coast of Australia. His Bishop told him that his work would include “the evangelization of no less than 20 million.” Just to make it interesting, some of those 20 million were headhunters and cannibals, and had the custom of strangling a woman if her husband died. In addition, slave traders roamed the seas practicing “blackbirding” – capturing the natives and forcing them into slavery on the farms of the Europeans. Patteson was not deterred.

The goal of the mission was to travel to the islands and convince the tribes to allow one or two of the older boys to leave the island for ten months to a year, so that they could be trained in the teachings of Christianity, then take them back to their islands where they would evangelize the rest of the community.

Patteson was successful in this work, gaining the respect of the natives and fellow workers, which led to him being elected as the Bishop of Melanesia. A Bishop from New Zealand wrote, “Anything more conscientious and painstaking cannot be conceived than the way Patteson has steadily directed his talent, every hour and every minute of his life, to the one work he has set before him. However small or uncongenial or drum-drudgery-like his occupation, however hard or dangerous or difficult, it seems to be always met in the same calm.”

This calm and the respect of the natives is what would eventually lead to his death. The blackbirders learned that the people would come out to greet Patteson, so when they anchored off the coast of one of the islands, they would send messengers to tell the islanders that Patteson was on board and wanted to see them. The natives would go out, only to be taken captive. This led to Patteson’s work becoming all the more dangerous, and he even wrote to his sister telling her that he feared it would eventually get him killed. It did.

On September 20, 1871 he made a visit to the island of Nukápu. He went ashore with a few others, but was immediately taken captive and martyred. Unfortunately, it was a mistake. Earlier that day, the blackbirders had raided the island and murdered five members of the community. They thought that Patteson and others were those same blackbirders returning.

Learning of his death, Max Muller, a professor at Oxford and friend of Patteson wrote, “To have known such man is one of life’s greatest blessings… In the distant future, depend upon it, the name of Patteson will live in every cottage, in every school, and every church in Melanesia—not the name of a fabulous saint or martyr, but as the never-to-be-forgotten name of a good, a brave, a God-fearing and God-loving man.”

Was his work and the work of others throughout the region successful? Melanesia is one of the most Christian nations in the world, with over 91% of the population believers. I would call that successful. In addition, his death led Queen Victoria to push for the end of all blackbirding.

What led Patteson, at the age of fourteen to want to become a priest? He heard a sermon while living in Windsor. That evening, he wrote to his mother: “It was beautiful when he talked of his going out to found a church, and then to die, neglected and forgotten: all the people burst out crying.” Jesus said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

John Coleridge Patteson truly gave and lost his life for the sake of the Gospel, so Jesus said to him on this day in 1871, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

For additional reading.


Sermon: Proper 19 RCL A – “Seventy Times Seven”

The podcast can be found here.

True story: Andy Thomossan was fishing aboard the boat named Citation during the 52nd Annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament on June 14, 2010 off the coast of North Carolina, when he hooked a whopper – an 883 pound marlin. He set the record and won the prize. The prize: one million dollars. Not bad for a day fishing.

After posing for pictures, the team began to celebrate their first place million dollar prize. Just one small problem: it was discovered that one of Thomossan’s partners, Peter Wann, didn’t have a valid fishing license.  That oversight was a direct violation of tournament rules, and after deliberating, officials disqualified the catch, and denied the entire team the winning purse.

Further adding to Wann’s shame, the fisheries division of North Carolina revealed that Wann purchased a license after the fish had been caught. He was hoping to keep his secret…secret.    Continue reading “Sermon: Proper 19 RCL A – “Seventy Times Seven””

Sermon: Feast of the Holy Cross

The podcast can be found here.

In Ruthwell Scotland there is a preaching cross. It is eighteen feet tall and made of stone. A preaching cross marks the place where itinerant traveling priest or monks would come to proclaim the word of God. Carved into this particular cross are scenes from the Bible, decorative vine work, and eighteen verses of an old English poem.

For centuries it was thought that the eighteen verses comprised the entire poem, but in 1822 a 10th century book was found that contained the complete text. The poem is titled, “The Dream of the Rood.” Continue reading “Sermon: Feast of the Holy Cross”

Sermon: Proper 18 RCL A – “Two or Three or More”

The podcast of this sermon can be found here.

A crowd of individuals can be a very fickle creature. It begins with each of us doing our own thing, but when we come together, we no longer pursue what makes us different, but what makes us alike. Given the right motivation, we will do what is necessary to be like everyone else and do what everyone else is doing. For example, take the wave at a football game, when 1,000s will go round and round the stadium, raising their hands and cheering.

Two physicist spent a summer studying this phenomenon. Perhaps it would be better to say, two bored physicists or two government funded physicists spent the summer studying the wave at sporting events. They reported, “The reason why we got interested in stadium waves was that people, apparently, very often behave like particles.” They say that in participating in the wave, we act like matter. Interesting points about a wave: in order for it to be sustainable, it must span from the top to the bottom of the stadium, it travels at about 20 seats per second, requires only 20 to 30 individuals to start a stadium of 50,000 moving, and typically the waves run clockwise. The primary factor though, in getting one started, is timing, when the mood is ripe. If it is an intense moment during the game, all you’re going to do in trying to start a wave is anger the people around you, but in times of celebration or even better, boredom, your chances of success increase considerably. So, like matter, given the right circumstances, a very small catalyst can start a very large reaction and get things moving. (source) Which, when applied to how individuals respond in a crowd, tells us that even if you’re sitting there trying to enjoy your supper with a beer in one hand, hotdog in the other, and some peanuts balanced on your knee, you’re still going to attempt to pop up when the wave comes to you, so that you can be like everyone else. Continue reading “Sermon: Proper 18 RCL A – “Two or Three or More””

Sermon: St. Teresa of Calcutta

The podcast can be found here.

The young woman prays: Jesus, my own Jesus – I am only Thine – I am so stupid – I do not know what to say but do with me whatever You wish – as You wish – as long as you wish. [But] why can’t I be a perfect Loreto Nun – here – why can’t I be like everybody else?  Jesus responds, I want Indian Nuns, Missionaries of Charity, who would be my fire of love amongst the poor, the sick, the dying and the little children … You are, I know, the most incapable person – weak and sinful but just because you are that – I want to use you for My glory. Will you refuse?

Who was the young woman?  She was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, but she is now known as the Saint of Calcutta – Mother Teresa.  That prayer dialogue she told to her superior in 1947.  In 1948 she was given permission to begin her ministry in India.  She started out alone, a small woman in her white and blue habit.  When she died in 1997, the order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, consisted of 610 missions in 123 countries including the US.  In 1979 she won the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work.  She donated the $192,000 cash prize to the poor of India.  Let’s face it, when we get to heaven and are standing in line waiting to get through the pearly gates, she really is the one that we do not want to find ourselves behind. Continue reading “Sermon: St. Teresa of Calcutta”

Sermon: Proper 17 RCL A – “Your Cross”

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For those who enjoy social media, Facebook would seem to be the place to be; however, like all such outlets, you can be as anonymous as you want, often allowing unrestrained digital bile, but also a place where you can be the person you want to be whether you are or not. One wrote – probably Abraham Lincoln – “Welcome to Facebook, the place where relationships are perfect, liars believe the lies they tell, and the world shows off they are living a great life: where your enemies are the ones that visit your profile the most, your friends and family block you; and even though you write what you are really thinking, someone takes it the wrong way!”

Not only that, there’s often a bit too much self-disclosure, which is causing some folks their jobs, and in one case, $150,000.

CNN reports that in November of 2011, Patrick Snay won a hard fought legal battle against Gulliver Preparatory School in South Florida on the grounds of discrimination. Snay was awarded a whopping $90,000 in the settlement. Gulliver School also had to pay the $60,000 in attorney’s fees that Snay had run up fighting them.

I had to read this a couple of times to make sure I had it right, but Snay is 69, and when he won the case, his teenage daughter broadcasted it to her 1,200 “friends” on Facebook that they had won: “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer.” That was followed by some colorful language. And it was those few words posted on Facebook that cost Mama and Papa Snay $150,000. How? It’s called a confidentiality agreement. Mama and Papa weren’t supposed to discuss it with anyone, even teenage daughter. They won an appeal, but Gulliver School won the next, the court writing: “Snay violated the agreement by doing exactly what he had promised not to do. His daughter then did precisely what the confidentiality agreement was designed to prevent.” (source one and two)

Proverbs 29:20 states, “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” Or, in the words of Hermione Granger, “What an idiot.”

I suppose we’ve all done something similar, although I doubt it has cost us as much. You finally get something right. You’re on the right track. The big break. However you want to phrase it, then some idiotic mistake sets you way back. Our good friend Peter was having such a day.

Last week: Simon Peter answered Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

This week – in the same conversation we were reading last week: Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

A few moments before, Peter was focused on divine things. He had it right, but then he opened his mouth, spoke in haste, and pushed his luck. Once again he was seeing Jesus as the earthly king that he hoped Jesus would become, but Jesus says, No. Setting up empires may be the way the kingdoms of this world are established, but not so the Kingdom of God. Jesus is saying that in order for the Kingdom of God to be inaugurated, I must be obedient. I must go to Jerusalem. And I must die. And wouldn’t it be nice if it ended there? Wouldn’t it be nice if that Kingdom were established and automatically we all became citizens, but that’s not how it works either. Because, in order for us to become citizens of the Kingdom of God, we have to follow Jesus. We have to do as he did. We have to die. Jesus said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

We must take up our cross and follow him. This is something we’ve discussed before, but we’ll call it one of Fr. John’s soapboxes: the cross that you have to bear is not the accumulations of your troubles or your afflictions or a difficult person. These are not crosses. These are what are summed up in one word: life. These things make up the trials of our lives, but they are not our crosses. If they were, then Jesus could have called Peter and the gang and all their blunderings his cross to bear. However, his cross was the instrument of his death; therefore, our cross is the instrument of our death. Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The cross that we bear is for us, so that we may be crucified with Christ and rise with Christ so that we may through our transformed and resurrected bodies receive our inheritance and enter the Kingdom of God that has been prepared for us since the creation of the world. But, that is not the only cross we carry.

After the soldiers had mocked Jesus, “they took off the [purple robe they had put on him] and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.”

I don’t know that we are ever forced to carry another person’s cross, but when we are able, we are most certainly expected to help others by providing for both their spiritual and physical needs. Again from his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Or, D. L. Moody, commenting on Isaiah 6:8 – “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” – Moody said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do, and what I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do.”

We are to assist others in carrying their crosses, because sometimes – even in the case of Jesus – getting to that place where that old self will be crucified can be a difficult journey, so sometimes, we must put on the garments of Simon of Cyrene and put our shoulders into another’s cross while carrying our own, always remembering that there will come a day when we need a Simon in our own lives.

As for those other loads that come with being alive, those trials of the world that come in each of our lives, we are also to be there in love for one another, providing help when we can, which isn’t just about writing a check. Even Little Johnny, who’s normally in trouble, understands this one.

He was sitting in church one day and had listened to a missionary talk about the work she had been doing. He thought it was amazing and wanted to help, so when the big brass offering plate started being passed around, he reached inside his pocket for something to put in, but came up with nothing but lint. He was distressed as the plate was passed down his row, and when it came to him, he stared at it a moment, then without hesitation, he put it on the ground and stepped into it.

A friend from seminary, Dave Huxley, (click here to visit his blog) has recently had to retire from the priesthood due to early onset dementia. He has a wonderful blog where he talks about his life and struggles and the things he forgets. Well, maybe you forget things, but you apparently do not lose wisdom. Speaking of the tragedy in Texas, Dave writes, “As the great blues singer, Elmore James sang, ‘When things go wrong, wrong with you, it hurts me too.’  We’re all interconnected in this time and place, and we all share in the same disasters.  The events unfolding in Houston, and all along the Gulf Coast, will affect everyone of us.  The great delusion of our age has been that things ‘over there’ don’t matter.  When things go wrong with you, it hurts me too, and we ignore that at our peril.”

There are going to be days when we get it perfect and there are going to be days when we step in it, just like Peter and the rest of the gang managed to do on a regular basis. But each day, we are to get up, put our shoulder into it and carry our cross. The cross that leads to our salvation. Along the way, we are also to help in easing the hurts of the world, by giving aid to others in need.

Now that I think about it, this entire sermon could have been preached in only thirty words, using that Law of Christ that Paul referenced in his letter to the Galatians.: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Let us pray:
God, our Father,
You redeemed us
and made us Your children in Christ.
Through Him You have saved us from death
and given us Your Divine life of grace.
By becoming more like Jesus on earth,
may we come to share His glory in Heaven.
Give us the peace of Your kingdom,
which this world does not give.
By Your loving care protect the good You have given us.
Open our eyes to the wonders of Your Love
that we may serve You with a willing heart.

Sermon: St. Augustine

The podcast for this sermon can be found here.

In the garden of Eden, the piece of fruit that Adam and Eve took that bite from is never identified as an apple.  Although never named, that apple has perhaps become the most infamous piece of fruit known to humankind.  Today, I would suggest to you that the second most infamous piece of fruit is a pear, because it was a pear that St. Augustine stole when he was sixteen years old.  Why did he steal a pear and what is his significance?

He wrote in his work Confessions, “Yet I was willing to steal, and steal I did [… the pear …] although I was not compelled by any lack, unless it were the lack of a sense of justice or a distaste for what was right and a greedy love of doing wrong. For of what I stole I already had plenty, and much better at that, and I had no wish to enjoy the things I coveted by stealing, but only to enjoy the theft itself and the sin.” Continue reading “Sermon: St. Augustine”

Sermon: Proper 16 RCL A – “Mistaken Identity”

The podcast for this sermon can be found here.

An old cowboy named Bud was overseeing his livestock in a remote mountainous pasture in California when a fella in a fancy car comes skidding up. He gets out and is wearing this outlandish high fashion getup, a Rolex, with his hair slicked back, and a California tan – the works. When he opens his mouth, he’s clearly from “back east.”

Coming over to Bud he asked, “If I tell you exactly how many cows you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?”

Bud sized up the fella another moment then agrees, “Sure, why not?”

The guy pulls out is iPad and iPhone, makes a call, and ask for a photo from a satellite above. Once received he runs it through some computer analysis and has it count the number of animals on the ranch. After a few minutes, he turns to Bud and says, “You have exactly 1,562 cows in your herd.”

“That’s right, pardner,” replied the old cowhand. “Well, I guess I owe you a calf. Pick one out.”

The fellas looks over the herd, picks one out and then proceeds to cram it in the backseat of his car.

Bud interrupts this process. “Listen. If I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?”

“Why not?”

“You’re a U.S. Congressman.”

The man is shocked. “Yeah, how’d you guess that?” Continue reading “Sermon: Proper 16 RCL A – “Mistaken Identity””

Sermon: St. Bartholomew

The podcast for this sermon can be found here  

Mark’s Gospel tells us, “Then [Jesus] came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked [the disciples], ‘What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?’  But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.”

Luke 9:46: “Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest.” Luke 22:22, just prior to our Gospel reading today: “Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.”

Then there’s that little episode in Matthew’s Gospel: “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to Him, ‘Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.’”

Is it just me, or do the disciples seemed to be a bit obsessed with having power? Continue reading “Sermon: St. Bartholomew”