2020 Trinity IV – Firm May She Ever Stand

Postulant Ken Kubo
5 July 2020

I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us..- Romans 8:18

While Blessed Paul makes a good point that eternal salvation in our perfected bodies is going to be glorious, let’s face it, the sufferings of this present time are not insignificant. This week, our doors are open, and we have the privilege of being able to gather physically and virtually to offer our praises and prayers to our Lord and Redeemer. We are being careful to observe the overlapping and sometimes inconsistent guidance from government entities, remembering that we must make our way as a place of work as well as worship. At the same time, as a house of the spirit, we must also be mindful that the rules laid down by local authorities do not compromise the intent of our service here. We must follow the Word within the world, always making sure we render unto God that which is God’s.

Yesterday, we celebrated the 244th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the statement that the American Colonies should become free and independent states. As any good history buffs will note, we celebrate just the beginning of the journey – after all, the colonies took another 7 years and change (Treaty of Paris, 3 September 1783) before reality caught up with that bold statement of principle. Perhaps by the anniversary of the end of the Revolutionary War in September, we’ll be better prepared to have celebrations and fireworks. This is a young nation still as the world reckons time, and there have been many more times of testing since. We take due pride in our country and in all that we have accomplished. The words penned in those days of conflict still resonate with us. As Alexander Hamilton said (although not as quoted in his popular musical – the real Hamilton didn’t actually rap), “There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.” It is the service of a higher ideal that calls us to become greater together (and not throwing away our shot!). We see this clearly in the actions of first responders and the sacrifices of our community for the common good. God bless our beloved country, with all it is and all it strives to be!

Keep in mind that just as the battles to gain and retain independence and a government that placed value on justice and mercy were (and are) complicated, so those on the front lines of change were themselves fully human, capable of bravery, heroism, and error. After all, John Adams, a member of the Committee of Five responsible for authorship of the Declaration, excitedly wrote his wife Abigail that he believed that July the 2nd would be celebrated “with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other”. It was on July 2nd that the Continental Congress voted to approve the resolution on independence. However, Adams did not count on the fact that the Declaration itself would be held up in debate for two more days until it was signed. So the occasional governmental slow down has been a national tradition since the very beginning. Yet remember that is just one of the traditions that we hold so firmly. I ask you to keep in mind and also celebrate the rights which have defined us, sometimes recalled as much when they are abridged as when they are respected. All opening guidance aside, we are gathered here to celebrate the Lord’s Day and to render prayers according to our historic manner of worship, reasonably unfettered by persecution. This reminds us that we are, amongst all our other freedoms, a people free to pray.

“Thou heard’st, well pleased, the song, the prayer; thy blessing came; and still its power shall onward, through all ages, bear the mem’ry of that holy hour.” – Leonard Bacon

While right now, our songs and prayers are somewhat muffled, we know that Our Lord hallows all our imperfect prayers before God’s throne. We are not the first to offer our sacrifice in inconvenient circumstances. It is well-known that after anchoring off Cape Cod, the passengers of the Mayflower knelt in prayer in thanksgiving for arriving on those shores. After two months at sea, sick, half-starved, and undoubtedly in need of a good scrubbing, they paused to worship before disembarking – a clear indication of their priorities. But our Anglican faith has an even older presence on nearer shores. The first Anglican service in North America is believed to have been celebrated in June 1579 on the shores of San Francisco Bay when Sir Francis Drake and the crew of the Golden Hinde landed to make repairs. Local natives gathered to watch the proceedings. By some accounts, Drake became concerned that the native populations they encountered looked upon the sailors as if they were divine beings, so the sailors conspicuously bowed their heads and prayed that God would help the natives understand the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, the salvation of the Gentiles (Francis Drake, The World Encompassed, 1628). This is part of the heritage and promise that we hold to – first obviously, that Our Lord extended His blessing and His kingdom to those beyond just the lost sheep of Israel, but as those who dwell upon these shores that prayer and blessing was an essential part of the lives of those who came before. In the midst of their several callings and tribulations, they made it a priority to invoke and involve the Almighty. Keep in mind that these were just people, not saints. Depending on which side of the cannons you were, Drake and his crew were basically pirates, and while the Pilgrim flock of the Mayflower were seeking religious freedom, there were a good number among them – and among those who came after – who were seeking the untapped riches of the New World, opportunity and increase of property. In the musical “1776,” the character of Ben Franklin states, “We’re men, no more no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed.” It’s important to keep in mind that even the greatest of historical figures were human and thus like us, as the bumper sticker says, “Not perfect, just forgiven.” For that matter, the history of the Church and even the lives of many saints reveal human fallibility. This does not mean that all their virtue is somehow invalidated; it does mean that, acknowledging the imperfections and failings, we still seek to honor – and take inspiration to stand upon – that which is good.

One of Terry Pratchett’s favorite literary characters states, “Take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy.” (Hogfather) We have tools that let us see the tiny adversary that is the SARS-Cov-2 virus, though just seeing it is only the start of that campaign. May God grant that we will soon see the day when “neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.” (Ps. 91) With all our science, we are unable to isolate, bottle, box up, and market justice or mercy or even virtue (Medieval indulgences notwithstanding). On one hand, we can say that we know them when we see them, or we might just state that they do not really exist and are just fabricated to keep the people in line. After all, if you can’t portion it out in your hand, is it real? Recall that for us – and for many who came to these shores across the years – the intangible Divine is part of our reality as well and every bit as real. We believe that our Creator endows us all with rights and has established commandments that govern our relationship with Him and with each other. Justice and mercy derive from His patterns. As with the laws of the state, the existence of rights and commandments does not mean we’re always good at upholding them. As an example of one such law, may I remind everyone that fireworks – and especially aerials – are illegal. But in our individual lives and as a nation, we continue to aspire to build the walls of heavenly Jerusalem one block at a time, to make the laws of nature and of nature’s God shine out for all to see. We depend on enablers that are just as intangible and no less real – love and faith and especially hope.

At my workplace, we are not generally allowed to use the word, “hope,” we’re continually reminded that hope is not a strategy. Our leadership frowns on program managers who are so careless as to say, “We hope for an on time delivery.” It’s true that hope is not a substitute for a plan, but hope is what gives us the motivation to continue to plan because it keeps success possible. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Hope is what allows us to believe that every time we are brought down to dust, it is worth standing up again because tomorrow may always be better; that we can continue to strive to be the equal of the dreams and rhetoric of our nation’s founders; that the blessing of God will continue to nurture, protect, and guide our Church and our nation through sickness and turbulence and troubles. We rest on hope not in ourselves or even in our human institutions; our infinite hope is in the Infinite – The Lord is my portion, therefore will I hope in Him (Lamentations 3:24). So, what we have begun in prayer, let us continue in hope, that each day may continue to hold the promise for each of us, as Emerson wrote, “to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child [or pet], a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here.” Thus, we may continue to redeem the time with love, to continue to strive towards the Light, and to stand firm upon our faith in the glory that shall be revealed in us.

Blessed Redeemer, as thou didst seek us out and guide us safely into thy fold, so enkindle our hearts and our vision with hope. Grant us by thy grace to see each day the best of things that may yet come, to love ourselves and our neighbors not just for what we are but for what we may become, and to feel thy presence walking with us each day upon this journey. Strengthen us in this world, perfect us in the next, and bring us through darkness into the light of thy eternal salvation. Amen.