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Welcome to Trinity Episcopal Church, NJ!

March 26, 2017: The Fourth Sunday in Lent – “Rose Sunday”

Celebrant:
The Rev. Andrew David Kruger

Deacon and Homilist: Canon Clive Oscar Sang

Seminarian: Allison Burns-LaGreca

Verger: Anthony Francis Vitale

Organist: Anthony J. Rafaniello

  • Handbell Prelude: “Deep River” – arr. Douglas E. Wagner
  • Choir Anthem: “Praise! Praise!” (from the Oratorio “Solomon”)
  • Postlude: none during Lent

Father Andy’s sermon

Lord God, through the written word, and the spoken word, may we know your Living Word; Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Words from the prophet Samuel which we heard during the reading of the Hebrew Scriptures earlier: “The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

When I read the texts for Sunday earlier this week, I was really struck by this sentence from Samuel, and it has remained with me throughout the week. It became particularly pertinent on Friday evening when Heather and I went to the Cranford Cinema, for the first time, to watch ‘Beauty and the Beast’. This ‘tale as old as time’, this romance between a girl and her captor, could easily have deteriorated into a creepy affirmation of Stockholm Syndrome parading as a fairy tale. Fortunately the very accomplished cast managed to avoid that very real possibility, and pulled off a first rate production of this classic.

As I sat and watched Belle beginning to see beyond the horns and the teeth and the hair of the beast, and into his tormented soul, I was reminded of the text from Samuel. As Belle allows compassion to replace fear, she begins to see beyond the grotesque outward appearance of the Beast. In a very real sense, Belle ceases to see as a mortals see and begins to see in the way God sees. Time and again God seems to turn our preconceived ideas upside down. Samuel understandably anticipates that God will choose the oldest and most athletic of Jesse’s sons. Instead the youngest and weakest of Jesse’s sons – David – is chosen. The story of the man born blind from the Gospel is a major challenge to the way in which we ordinarily think about healing and blessing. Most of the time we take it for granted that to be healed and to be blessed by God is a wonderful thing that everybody desires, or at least should desire.

I wonder if the man born blind was really thankful for the sight which Jesus gave to him. Consider for a moment the aftermath of his healing, and here I’m indebted to the Fred Craddock, professor of preaching and New Testament at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta:

The drama unfolds in four scenes. Firstly, the healed man tries to go home again but cannot. So radical is the change in him that his reappearance in the old neighborhood generates no joy, no celebration, no welcome home, only questions and doubts. His insistence that he is the same man gains mixed responses. He was formerly well known among these people; his stumbling and hesitant walk, his dependence, his poverty were his identity, they defined his place in the community. Now he walks upright, assured of place and direction, quite independent, only to discover that he has no place anymore.

Secondly, the healed man is hauled before religious leaders. They are interested in all reported miracles, especially if performed by unauthorized individuals and most especially if done in violation of some law. Such is the case here; the healing occurred on the sabbath. A quandary: if this man is truly healed, it was done by someone with the power of God, but if the healing took place on the sabbath, then it was done by someone opposing God’s law. Are you sure you can see? they ask. Were you really blind?

Thirdly, the parents of the healed man are grilled by the religious leaders. Yes, he is our son; yes, he was born blind; no, we do not know what happened; no, we do not know who did it. Whatever joy they may have had is drowned in fear. Expulsion from the synagogue and social disgrace is a high price to pay for having a son especially blessed by God. They were unwilling to pay it.

Lastly, the man is grilled a second time and more intensely. The authorities, faced with the irrefutable evidence of the healing, try to make the man denounce Jesus as a sinner. The poor man, armed only with his experience and sound logic, cannot believe a sinner could have the power of God. Anger and frustration rule: the man is denounced along with Jesus and expelled as a sinner, his old friends disregard him, his parents reject him, and he is no longer welcome at his old place of worship. What a blessing!

The man born blind could have said quite understandably to himself more than once, “I never asked to be healed. If this is what it means to be blessed of God, I think I am willing to relinquish some divine favors.” Perhaps no biblical story illustrates quite so dramatically the deep truth that God’s favor more often leads into, rather than away from difficulties. A relationship to God does not remove one from but often places one in the line of fire. And so allow me to conclude with a Franciscan Blessing that captures something of the way in which God turns our world view upside down:

“May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

May God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. Amen.

Notes on the Readings

Welcome to our parish on the Sunday of the Man Born Blind. This gospel reading has been used since early days of the church to help those preparing for baptism understand the process of enlightenment they are going through. In this story, the blind man progresses from the restoration of his physical sight to a deeper enlightenment about God until he is able to recognize Jesus as his Redeemer.

The first reading takes us to the point in the history of salvation when David is chosen by God as king. As is so often the case with the outstanding heroes of the faith, God’s choice is not apparent to those who evaluate by human standards. David’s anointing is an image of our own baptism in which God chose us and set us apart not for our own merits but because God loves us.

The second reading describes how those who have been baptized and now live in the light will carry on their lives. The final verse may be an ancient Christian baptismal hymn.

Like the man born blind, are now awake and filled with the Light from Light through our baptism. As we continue in our Lenten pilgrimage toward Easter, enlightened by God’s Word and nourished by the sacraments, we find ourselves in the company of a great family of believers. Let us continue to pray for those preparing to be enlightened and anointed in baptism by the Holy Spirit at Easter.

Light on the Liturgical Calendar: What is Rose Sunday?

First, a numerical puzzle. That Lent consists of forty days is rather well known. But go to a calendar; count beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending with the day before Easter. The result? Not forty days but forty-six days! Why? Because the forty days of Lent are fast days in the broad sense, times of discipline and self-restraint. But the Lord’s Day, being a Little Easter, is always a feast within the church. Therefore in order to have forty days of fasting, six Sundays must be excluded from the count. Lent in truth is forty weekdays plus six Lord’s Days.

This theology of the Lord’s Day, once so central to our earliest brothers and sisters in the faith, was gradually forgotten. As the Season of Lent developed and became established in the church even the Lord’s Day became an enforced fast. However, 46 days of fasting is a bit much even for those with an iron clad ascetic spirituality. Rose or Refreshment Sunday came to be considered a day of relaxation from normal Lenten rigors; a day of hope with Easter at last within sight. Traditionally, weddings (otherwise banned during Lent) could be performed on this day, and servants were released from service for the day to visit their mothers (hence it also being called ‘Mothering Sunday’).

The theology of the Lord’s Day was recovered by the Liturgical Renewal at the end of the 19th Century and is reflected in the 1979 BCP. Therefore, we keep Rose Sunday, not to break our fast for the first time but, to be reminded that in the midst of our Lenten disciplines the hope of the Easter Season is at hand. Just as Spring promises to thaw the earth, so Rose Sunday promises the full 50 day Season of Easter celebrations becoming visible on the horizon.

Audio Files

The Worship Service

10 AM: Rite Two

THE LITURGY OF THE WORD

Handbell Prelude see above
Processional Hymn H # 149
Acclamation BCP 355
Kyrie S # 86
Collect of the Day BCP 219
The Lesson 1 Samuel 16: 1-13
Psalm Psalm 23
The Epistle Ephesians 5: 8-14
Sequence Hymn H # 490
The Gospel John 9: 1-41
Sermon Father Andy
Nicene Creed BCP 358
Prayers of the People
The Peace BCP 360
Announcements

THE GREAT THANKSGIVING

Choir Anthem see above
Offertory Hymn H # 645
Eucharistic Prayer A BCP 361
Sanctus S # 124
The Lord’s Prayer BCP 364
Agnus Dei S # 161
The Invitation BCP 364
Communion Hymns H 620, 339
Prayer over the People
Blessing
Recessional Hymn H # 432
Dismissal
Postlude see above