Trinity XIV 2019
The Reverend Beau McLaurin Davis, Sr.
The American history of the Church is a fascinating one. There is a legend that the first person to bring Christianity to the New World was Saint Brendan, who set sail in a simple boat with a handful of other monks in the mid-500s; but the concrete introduction of Christianity to the Americas was with the Spanish in 1492. Protestantism didn’t exist (in any significant form) until 1517, so Roman Catholicism reigned as the sole Christian expression in the Americas until the establishment of the doomed English Roanoke Colony in 1584. While there were colonies founded by the British which were founded by certain religious sects (Massachusetts and Connecticut were Puritain/Congregationalist (UCC), Rhode Island was founded by Baptists, and Pennsylvania by Quakers), the default State Church was the Church of England (Anglicans = us). Anglicanism was the dominant faith here until the Revolution split the American Anglicans from England (and all the Anglican Bishops), allowing the Methodists to gain prominence. The 1st Great Awakening (in the mid-1700s) grew the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist Churches. The 2nd Great Awakening (1820s-50s) gave birth to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, and the Restorationist Movement (that is, Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ). The 4th Great Awakening (1960s-80s) created Pentecostals/Charismatics, contemporary biblical fundamentalists, nondenominational churches, the “religious right,” and megachurches (as well as the Continuing Anglican movement) in response to the New Age Movement’s influence on the Mainline Churches. The 3rd Great Awakening (1850s-1930s) was begun with the understanding that Christ was going to return at any time, and so the world needed to be prepared for his return. Some groups were founded on the belief that God was sending new prophets to prepare the world in what they believed were the Last Days (Christian Scientists [which are not Scientologists], Church of the Nazarene, the Salvation Army, and the Temperance Movement, to name a few). While all these have lasting significance in the American Church, the 3rd Great Awakening’s focus on the Social Gospel is one which has had a positive influence on Christianity as a whole. While taken to the extreme more often than not (resulting in impiety, jealousy, and focus on social justice over the actual Gospel), the Social Gospel’s intent was to implement the Gospel’s directive to love our neighbor through action (feed the hungry, clothe the naked, convert the unbeliever) and not merely holding warm fuzzies. This came about at a time when Christianity had become introspective, Christians had stopped sharing the Gospel, and they had forgotten that loving your neighbor is not a matter of distant appreciation: a time which we have returned to.
After Communion, thanks being done, what are you supposed to do with the endowment of the empowerment of the power which both created the universe and saved us from ourselves, of which you have just partaken? The word “Mass” comes from the very directive given you from the priest, “Ite, missa est,” that is, “Go, [you] are dismissed.” Today we say, “depart in peace,” “Let us bless the Lord,” or at a funeral, “May they rest in peace.” While these dismissals serve a practical purpose (so you know it’s all over: which you might have needed when everything was in Latin), there is a connotation that you are supposed to go out and do something with this salvation which you have gained. Many theologians go so far to equate missa with missionary. While surely not the original purpose of the word, that is exactly what you are when you leave here.
“I’m no missionary,” I can hear you thinking. Oh yes you are! Christ made us all missionaries. Christ told us we have to leave here and spread the Gospel. You are empowered by Christ to do so. You leave here one with Christ; but before you leave you are given a blessing, called the Benediction, which is to strengthen you in your missionary life. The peace of God which surpasses everything that you can possibly understand will be with you to calm your doubts. It will constantly remind you of what has happened to you here if you let it. Through the power of God (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost), you will not fear to do your job in spreading the Gospel.
The service at the altar concludes with the Last Gospel. It is less common in Anglican parishes today, but it was in the Sarum Mass of England until the 1549 Prayer Book, and Roman Mass until the 1960s. Technically, the Last Gospel can be any Gospel reading from any mass commemorated. For example: today we translated the feast of Saint Matthew (meaning it was yesterday, but we are celebrating it today). We will say the Collects for Saint Matthew, but the gospel and epistle readings are those for the 14th Sunday After Trinity. It would be completely normal to say the Gospel reading for Saint Matthew’s Day (Matt. 9) instead of our usual Last Gospel. That being said, by default the Last Gospel is Saint John 1:1-14, and this is for a good reason. We hear how the world was created, how God’s only Son became man, how Christ sacrificed himself for us, and how we can become the children of God through this connection. Like Christ which came to us as Son of God to save us, we are to go (as sons and daughters of God) to save others by living in imitation of him that saved us.
Our worship here ends with procession outward. We call it the “recessional” as a logical description (you procede in/to, and recede from); but in reality it is part of the liturgy to continue the service out into the world, so it is the outward procession. Originally, the procession would keep going through the streets: bells would announce the procession’s beginning, workers would kneel as the procession went by, and the deacons would carry the Blessed Sacrament to those sick and elderly who could not come to the church. You are all a part of that procession today. You are to carry Christ out to those who desperately need him.
Christ never told us to have a personal relationship with him. The implication of something being personal is that it is yours, and that it is something private. Christianity is not yours: it is neither personal nor private. Christianity is something shared which we participate in. The Gospel is not a feeling or a belief: the Gospel is a command and an action. You have been commanded by Christ to go out and do the Gospel. You don’t get to keep the light of Christ as some treasure in a box, you have to share it.