Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pentecost: Coming of the Holy Spirit

With the Holy Spirit, the disciples will begin to find their identity in Jesus, worship Jesus with all their life, live in community, and be on mission to make more disciples for Jesus.

The Holy Spirit as Agent of freedom

The Holy Spirit sets us free. Free from the fear of our enemies. The Spirit is a barrier breaker. He opens all closed doors. 
The disciples were able to publicly express their faith. “They were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”. We live in a time where we talk a lot about “religious freedom”. And military religious freedom is occupying the headlines in the News today. Many men and women in the military are under attack because of their Christian faith.
All this is happening because people exercise their constitutional right of religious liberty.

Where can we find the courage to fight this battle? We need to let the Holy Spirit take control. Rev. 12, 11 says that we will overcome the enemy by the blood of the lamb and by the word of our testimony.

Holy Spirit as Agent of unity

The Holy Spirit unites all believers into one body, the body of Christ, which is the church. The church grows through preaching about Jesus Christ, but also by discipleship, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. The Holy Spirit leads us into such expressions of our new life in Christ. This means that beyond the diversity of the church, the Spirit of Jesus is bringing us into one body, one family of God. Jesus prayed in John 17 “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one” (John17 :11).

Peace and blessings!
Fr. Thierry

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Waiting on the Lord

We live in a time of impatience and immediate gratification. People want result of their efforts right away. We forget how to wait for things to happen. We sign up for a quick fix. This impatience also affects our spiritual life. We pray to God and we want immediate results ignoring that God knows better the difference between what we need and what we want.

When things don’t go the way we expect them to go, we get frustrated and give up on the effort of waiting.

We are now in the days between Ascension and Pentecost. The disciples are left alone without the Master. But if there is any lesson we learn from them during this period of time, it is the virtue of patience and waiting upon God’s promise.

How did the disciples wait for the fulfillment of that promise? Let us look at the life of the disciples of Jesus between Ascension and Pentecost.

Waiting patiently by praying and living together

They were not discouraged about the physical absence of the Lord. Here is what the book of Acts teaches us:
“They all joined together constantly in prayer,5 along with the women6 and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” (Acts 1: 14)

Waiting patiently by submitting to God’s will

The tangible example of this submission to God’s will is found in the decision-making process to choose Matthias to replace Judas. First of all they narrowed their decision to two men and then, secondly, left the final decision up to God. This is how they prayed it: 
“You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place”   (Acts 1:24-25).

These are the two things we all need to do while waiting on the Lord. He will surely answer at his appointed point and according to his will.

Peace and blessings!

Fr. Thierry

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Why We Worship This Way

It seems every time I turn around I see another church advertising for a musician for a praise band. Now, I'm an electric blues musician and I love to play in bands, but it always brings to mind comments I've heard for years from people who say worship should be "relevant," that it should "meet their needs."

Fr. John Matusiak of the Orthodox Church in America has a great response for those statements. He calls such worship "man-centered" worship. Fr. John suggests the focus here is on how God affects "my life" and what "I get out of worship." I believe he's right, because I've heard these comments too many times to discount their relationship to where the person puts the real focus of worship. Here their focus is on "ME”… what "I" want...fitting "MY" expectations…”ME, ME, ME”. The script here is that, "I'm so important that worshipping God has to fit in with the way 'I' want to do it." As with many facets of our society today, the person becomes the most important factor here and God has to take a back seat. This is self-focused, not God-focused.

In the Anglican tradition, we take a view very similar to that expressed by Fr. John in describing Orthodox worship. Anglican worship is not a matter of personal taste. When Archbishop Cranmer was compiling the first Book of Common Prayer in the 16th century, he wasn't really concerned with making the worship relevant for the people of the 16th century. He was concerned that the worship was scriptural and God-centered. Fr. John says that God is the only one we should be concerned with pleasing in our worship and I think he's spot on. "Entertainment" worship might be amusing, but it only lets us experience worship from our own limited, narrow view. It comes from the "ME" and not from God. Let's face it: our view is not always correct. In fact, as Jesus often points out, our views can be quite flawed.

Popular Facebook Meme- What can we say?
Entertainment worship does not necessarily force us to confront our sin, our fallenness, and those things which make us uncomfortable. Instead of centering on God, it substitutes "Top 40" music and a motivational speech....it gives us something that isn't too difficult to swallow.

The fact is that worship is not designed for us, but for God. It is our Lord whom we worship and not ourselves. We should care less about what pleases us and more about what pleases Him. Fr. Matusiak put it well when he says, "...we are called to worship 'in Spirit and Truth,' as we read in Scripture; that we are called to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ 'as often as you come together' lest, as we read in the words of Our Lord Himself in the Gospel of Saint John, we have no life in us; that we are to 'lay aside all earthly cares'....that we are called to transform our fallen human existence and unworthiness by bringing it into the very presence of God Himself--in His Kingdom, not ours--and meeting God 'where He is,' rather than where we are or where we would like Him to be." 

Our worship is God-focused. Just read the Eucharistic rite in the 1928 Book of CommonPrayer. Everything we do is grounded in scripture. Everything we say has a focus on God. When the focus is on us, it speaks to our fallen nature and need for God's love and forgiveness, as well as our need for salvation-- forgiveness and salvation He provides through the sacrifice of His Son. Rather than a weekly shuffling of "off the-cuff" service pieces and parts, our Eucharist is the same every Sunday, completely grounded in scripture and focused on the creator, not His creation. Paul tells us that Christ is the same "...yesterday, today, and tomorrow." The Trinity is unchanging and the key is to understand that our liturgy must reflect that truth.

There are a variety of liturgies today in the church. The Roman Catholics have their rites; the
Orthodox have the Liturgies of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom; and we traditional American Anglicans have the 1928 Book of CommonPrayer, the Anglican Missal, and the Anglican Service Book. What do these liturgies share? They are God-focused, they reflect the unchanging nature of the Trinity, aligning with the ageless faith of two millennia. They don't move and shift as contemporary tastes change and it's “If you want a religion to make you feel comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity” ~ C.S.Lewis a good thing because we can see that contemporary tastes aren't always God-centered. Contemporary tastes don't reflect God, but they do reflect selfish humans. Anglicans have witnessed this trend most recently with changes to liturgy that ignore and diminish the nature of the Trinity.

Liturgy is an external event that focuses on internal faith. The Eucharist is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. We learned that in our catechism. It is the experience of Christ's sacrifice and promise of His resurrection and our salvation. Maybe that's where the differences lie.

In some other churches there is no continuity with respect to what is preached when and how. There is no continuity to "liturgy" so it can change a little every week. Some of the current vernacular among the folks who are involved with this type of worship includes calling worship "doing church." They'll say, "there are several ways to do church..." I find that phrase odd. It suggests that worship is something we "do" as though it's a flexible experience that needs to bend to the interests and desires of humans. We traditional Anglicans, don't "do" church. We aren't flexible with our Sunday worship. We follow a liturgical calendar to teach doctrine and glorify God through the scripture and sacraments. Each season of the church calendar is important because it teaches us something about our faith. It's the same every year. If you pray Morning and Evening prayer and attend Mass on Sunday, you will have read the entire Bible in one year and will have gone through a focused "lesson plan" on the Christian faith, a lesson plan that is God-focused.

COME unto me, all ye that travail
and are heavy laden, and I will
refresh you. 
 St. Matt. xi. 28.
Despite what society might think today, enjoyment is not the sole purpose of worship. Knowing and understanding God brings joy, not our personal likes and dislikes about worship. As Fr. John says, "Ultimately, those...who define 'good worship' by their personal tastes or interests are not in a position to fully understand the Liturgy, even though they may 'enjoy' the experience." To understand the liturgy is to move away from yourself and focus on God. Understand what He wants from you and how He wants you to worship Him. To ensure the act of worship reflects the inward and spiritual... and God.

We have the constancy of the Prayer Book which not only guides our worship, but ensures its continuity and orthodoxy. It focuses on what is truly important: God, versus how WE want things and our selfish enjoyment. Linking us to catholic Christians of the ages, it is beautiful, reverential, dignified-- ensuring we are on the right path in our faith. It doesn't let us get distracted by worldly desires and thoughts, but brings us to God and the salvation His Son has given us through His passion and death on the cross. In fact, in the experience of the Holy Communion we might just find ourselves asking whether we're on earth or in heaven and that is the most relevant thing of all.

Adapted from a circular - unknown author. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


When we read both the Epistle of James (James 1: 22-27) and the gospel (John 16: 23-33), we see a combination of prayer and work. On one hand, Jesus says “Ask and you shall receive that your joy may be full.” On the other hand, James says, “Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only.” Now, where is the connection?

The answer to this question is in another question: “what should we pray for"?  For money, for food, for clothes, for fame, or for prosperity? Our prayers should not be to ask for any of these things, “for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” (Matthew 6: 32).

What then should we pray for? We should pray for the grace (favor), wisdom and guidance to do the will of God. When we operate under the favor or the grace of God, we will not miss the point of doing the will of God; our joy is full, and we are blessed in our work. And that’s the foundation of our religion.

Our life goes according to a certain cycle. So also goes our liturgy, our celebration of who God is. Remember, we worship as we believe, and we believe as we live and work.

The cycle or the pattern goes as follow: we come to the altar to offer “ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto the Father through the Son.”

We offer our confession, our supplications, our doubts, and what we have. We offer to God the best, but also the confusing image of us. What do we receive back? God gives us back his blessings, his grace, “that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as he had prepared for us to walk in”.

You see, we bring to God our distractions, our disorder and chaos; God takes this and brings forth the order and beauty of his new life in us.

And that’s what true religion is all about. That’s what Rogation Sunday is all about.
Let’s be reminded that a good harvest is still the product of dependence on God “from whom all good things do come”.

Peace and blessings!

Fr. Thierry

"For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Telling The Truth

In the Gospel this week (John 16: 6-15), we continue with the discussion that Jesus had with his
No one ever said.
disciples. It is all about the truth of kingdom.
We live in a world where the majority of people believe that there is no absolute truth; that everything is relative. And that leads to the theory of relativism.

We also know that more than 2000 years ago, Truth was judged and put to death by those who preferred lies.

What is truth?

According to the dictionary, truth is “conformity to fact; a statement proven to be accepted as true”.

It has nothing to do with whatever works. Truth is not whatever works type of thing; the philosophy of ends-vs-means type of an approach. Lies can work, the fact of the matter is they still remain lies and not the truth! Truth is not what the majority says is true. 70% of people can come together and reach a wrong conclusion. And it happened in our country at least twice in the past eight years.

Why do we need to stand for truth?

One of the biggest problems with Christians today is that they are hiding the truth of the gospel of Christ within the church walls, in a secret place as we see it in Luke 11:33

There is a saying in our society today that we shouldn’t force our beliefs on other people. As Christians we are called to stand up against the devil.

Psalm 94:16 "Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?"

To fully know why we need to stand for the truth, we have to go back to the early Church believers. They succeeded because they were not afraid of standing up for the truth. They won many souls for Jesus. Acts 2: 41 teaches us that 3000 souls were saved.

We need to stand up! You know what, the devil doesn’t care about what you believe as long as you keep to yourself, you keep it private. The devil is concerned when you start speaking publicly, openly. We need to occupy the public square just like the early Church believers. They scared Satan to death!

May God help us to know the truth, to tell the truth, and to live out the truth so that we may be worthy of our callings.

Peace and blessings!

Fr. Thierry Hakpon

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