Anglican Church of the Incarnation, Cambridge, Mass.



Sermon preached by Mr. David Trumbull on April 27, 2003, being the First Sunday after Easter

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Today, the first Sunday after Easter, is also a Sunday in Easter, for Easter is a 50-day period from the Resurrection, through Christ’s many post-resurrection appearances, as in today’s lesson from St. John, through the Ascension, and ending with the descent of the Holy Ghost on Whitsunday. We began our corporate worship today with an Easter hymn, Welcome happy morning. It’s one of my favorites. We who keep the traditional church calendar with a full 50 days of Easter are blessed with a full seven weeks during which to sing this joyous Arthur Sullivan tune.

And yes, in case you didn’t know, the Arthur Sullivan who wrote the hymn tune is the same as he of "Gilbert and…" I can’t decide if it is more a comment on contemporary music or on the contemporary church that, unlike Victorian England, we do not live in a time when the most successful composer of popular music is also a composer of hymn tunes!

Would that it were so, for it is clear from the Scriptures that our faith is to be lived in the world as a witness to and transformer of the world, not as a turning from the world. "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," says Christ—not as a private gift but for the remitting of sins.

Standing here, as a layman, I am reminded of a scene in the Dorothy Sayers mystery, The Nine Tailors. After solving the mystery, Lord Peter Wimsey--in the 1970 BBC television version; I’m not sure the exact scene appears in the book—Lord Peter is in an Anglican church, not in his customary secular role as detective, but at the lectern, reading the first lesson at Morning Prayer. It is a little surprising, as Lord Peter is not an overly religious man. Dorothy Sayers was, however, a devout Anglican who understood that religion is not just for the "religious." Church is not just the "the church lady." And God’s work of reconciling sinners is a work for all in his church: bishops and priest of course, but also the people in the pews. "But I am not worthy," you say. Well of course, none of us is worthy. God uses us sinners to save sinners.

The lesson today from St. John teaches us that the gift of the Holy Ghost is for a purpose--remission of sins. It also tells us that the gift is not, primarily, to us individually, but to the church. "Being the first day of the week (Sunday)…the disciples were assembled [and] came Jesus…and saith…Peace be unto you as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you…Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." Jesus speaks to the church assembled. The ministry of reconciliation, which is entrusted to men, is done in the context of the church, Christ’s body on earth. We, here at Church of the Incarnation are part of the body of Christ. We are also part of a larger church body, the Diocese of the Eastern States, part of the Province of Christ the King, part of the One Holy and Catholic and Apostolic Church.

In two weeks some of us shall attend the Province of Christ the King Synod, this year in Ansonia, Connecticut. Father Woodruff will have more to say on this next week, I’m sure. At the Synod important Province business will be conducted. We are blessed here at Incarnation to have a full-time priest. And since he is not here and has not previewed this sermon I can get away with telling you frankly that we are exceptionally blessed to have Fr. Woodruff. Whether it is adding additional services to accommodate college students, appearing regularly on local television, serving as chaplain to the jockeys and crew at Suffolk Downs, or any other place that he might show up where people need to hear the Gospel, Fr. Woodruff is there in a minute.

Personally, I believe that having a full-time priest whose only job is building this mission is the key to success. We could not do this on our own. Many people in the Diocese of the Eastern States are contributing to our support. Every year we raise more money locally for the expenses of Church of the Incarnation, but we still depend on outside funding. During lent, you received a packet with a letter from me and one from Fr. Woodruff outlining the cost of running this mission, the importance of the continued success of the mission, and asking for your financial commitment. I urge you to examine your heart, and your bank account, and prayerfully consider how you can help.

Won’t be great when we can show up at the annual Synod of the Eastern Diocese and report that we are fully self-funded and can start sending our contributions to support other missions?

By the way, Fr. Woodruff is out of town, presiding at a wedding. Next week, when he returns, he will, God willing, celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass, the nuptial mystery, the re-presentation of Christ as groom in His union with His Church here at the Anglican Church of the Incarnation at 9:00 a.m. Sunday.