SERMON FOR THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY 2021
The increase of faith, hope and charity.
Around us, the world is at sixes and sevens. Controversy rages around pipelines, diplomats struggle over international conflicts and threats of revolution. Drug crises and military scandals are causes for deep concern. And yet we few here are about to talk of faith, hope and charity! All I can say is, thank heaven! Because these, the so-called “Theological Virtues” are of lasting importance, far beyond the news of the day. And they should be the cause of earnest prayer, that we may increase in those three, and the greatest of these is charity.
We began to learn about them in early childhood, faith through parents who taught us to pray, and in Sunday School, when we began to learn about Jesus,. We developed hope waiting for Christmas, and we had learned of love by that of our parents and grandparents enfolding us. Over time we began to mature through Bible study of course, as well as through experience. We heard the words of Saint Paul: “Faith, hope and charity, and the greatest of these is charity.” Many of us at our Confirmation made our personal and private promises to God to live by this truth. The fact that we have all failed so often does not change the conviction that these are the values by which we must live, and by which alone we can prepare for heaven.
From childhood on we have known that growth is a vital part of everyone’s life. We have experienced it over and over again: Our first steps; our height being measured and marked; that hopeful but frightening first day of school; starting to play games, learning to swim, to dance; the dread high school or college exams, the first application for a job; trying to pass the test of each new experience. So we pray that “as we grow in age, we may grow in grace.”
We have all grown in age, but we have no choice in that achievement. We sometimes grow in size, and that is another matter! But we want to increase in wisdom certainly, to grow in other ways, increase in job performance and its rewards, and at vital moments, increase in income! Growth in grace is a great blessing, so we may enjoy the fruit of a life well lived. Yet we must also keep a strong element of “divine discontent,” not to grow complacent and self-satisfied. When we relax too much, or if we get too pleased with ourselves, there’s usually a banana peel waiting for us. We all want to keep on believing, keep on hoping for the future we cannot see, keep on trying to love as we want to be loved ourselves. Life is a challenge for us, but how fortunate we are that we do not face it alone. God is with us.
Our most cherished ambitions do require a lot of “gumption,” a lot of determination; but we must be aware that they are always best realised through prayer and obedience.
We need to grow in Faith to give wings to our souls. We need to grow in Hope to keep us looking forward. We need to grow in Love to fulfill the beautiful law of life which our Saviour has given us.
This prayer has been answered for us personally many times, probably more often than we think; and sometimes more than we deserve. Our shared faith, as a family in Christ, is a trust that He will bless our little church, and watch over us and all our loved ones.
We have had high hopes, ever since Saint Mark’s began, that it may grow into a strong and faithful community, living up to our Anglican Christian tradition, which is a gift of God. And a church without heaps of faith, hope, and love is in trouble. We don’t want to be in that kind of trouble.
We hope for the growth and a fine future life of our children and grandchildren. And then at long last Christ will come again, and we shall all be united in his Kingdom.
We want to maintain our convictions and a strong belief in our Lord; a devotion to Him, and a dedication to the “faith once delivered to the saints,” so that when we say the Creed we mean what we say, and not some boiled-down, half-hearted loyalty.
We want to maintain our hope in the future, so that whatever the challenges of our time, and the problems we must face, we may keep our hearts and the eyes of the soul uplifted.
Throughout the tumultuous years, one thing has kept us going, and somewhere close to Christ, and that is the love of God, shared with one another. We want to live up to the message of the Parable: to show our love in practical ways wherever there is a need we can help to meet for whoever needs us. God’s love for us is still a great miracle, that we can only celebrate by the love we show to others. This is not just emotional, nor should it always be “tough love,” but in some way a reflection of our Heavenly Father’s love.
We have known from the beginning that our commitment to the Christian tradition in which we have practised our faith, would require us to rise above seemingly insurmountable odds of all kinds. Only the wings of faith allow us to soar above very hard times.
And despite the spiritual turmoil that tears at the fabric of all the branches of the Church today, the heartaches that have engulfed so many spiritually, we carry on. Slowly, the Church grows, in a time when many seem to be too busy for God. We want to grow and plant a church. It is far more than a question of planning, though planning is important. God so often changes our plans, as He has done in recent months. We must still plan for the future, but always with the understanding that He may over-rule our plans and give us something better in their place. It is not just a matter of money, though in various ways He has inspired us to give without any pressure except our desire to support our church. The wise Father that He is, our God does not make everything easy, because effort and struggle have always been essential to our human character, and to our progress in anything that we do. But I believe He has a great future in mind for us.
Jesus has told us that our faith makes us whole. He had just healed the ten lepers without their even knowing it. They had asked Him for God’s mercy, because they had heard He was the Messiah. All He said was, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” That was the only way in which someone cured of leprosy could gain re-admittance to the community. Lepers had to live in complete isolation. As we have just heard once again in the Gospel, only one man bothered to give thanks. We want to be like him, and make thanksgiving, one of the underpinnings of our Church. Faith is always more than belief in God; it is what we allow God to do through us, because of our faith.
May our faith increase! Our faith in God—in our life together as Christians, in our life with our mates, our children, our friends; in our work, usually healthy, so we may show ever greater gratitude. May our faith increase so that our light may shine brightly, and its glow be visible to others looking for the light.
May our hope increase! Expand our horizons—see the possibilities for the spiritual growth of our church, for our own renewal and for new vistas of service. May we be filled with hope for the future despite the problems of the present.
And may our love increase! May we allow our Saviour’s love to take over, releasing us from any bonds of envy, bitterness, or discord. May love be increasingly visible among us in Saint Mark’s. Like every human family, we have much that binds us together, but we are still individuals who must always increase in compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness. So that great collect calls us to our Christian way. “Give unto us the increase of faith, hope and charity,” and if we mean it, it makes a difference. That is what St John called it, “Doing the truth.”
O HEAVENLY FATHER, who hast created us all out of love, grant that we gathered together in thy Name, in our hearts and minds and souls, may be made whole by our faith in thy Son. Give us faith to let Thee remove the mountains that stand in the way of our spiritual success. Carry us forward by our hope in Christ. May the love of Christ be our everlasting theme, and in his Name we pray. Amen
Fr Stan is the spiritual mentor of Mr Berkeley Stewart, who is a member of the congregation at All Saints.
With his permission, Berkeley has been forwarding us Fr Stan’s sermons. They are published here, as well as a brief biography of this remarkable priest:
The Rev. Canon Stanley R. Sinclair
The Rev. Canon Stanley R. Sinclair of Church of Our Saviour, Victoria, was born in 1931 in Ross, California, across the north bay from San Francisco. In the coming years his family lived in the Sierra Mountains and later in the Napa Valley. At an early age he felt called to the ministry and after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley in 1956 he fulfilled his vow and entered the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, also in Berkeley, under the authority of the Bishop of San Joaquin (the central valley diocese of the Episcopal Church in California).
In December of 1953 he married Sonja Swinnerton von Savoye in the historic church of St James’, Sonora, which was “family church” to both the Sinclairs and the von Savoyes. During these years he was employed at the University Library and he graduated as Master of Divinity Cum Laude in 1956. He was ordained Deacon in the family’s parish church in Sonora, CA, and later priest as Curate in St John the Evangelist, Stockton, California.
In the Stockton years Sonja and Father Stan became the adoptive parents of baby Erik Alexander von Savoye Sinclair, and of Grace Amy and Sarah Mary-Elizabeth, the two girls who had come to them as foster children—all within one year!
The following decades took the Sinclairs to various parish assignments, which included new fledgling congregations, fading parishes in need of a “lift,” from less than a hundred faithful up to 1300 in one parish! It involved building churches, starting two parochial schools, and working with many wonderful people, both clergy and laity; and finally moving all the way to Canada. After 15 years in Victoria and Calgary, since 1991, Father Stan has served as rector successively of two churches in Victoria. Although now officially retired, he is still serving as best he can at the age of 89.
Although now unable to travel, both for reasons of the pandemic and old age, the Sinclairs have previously enjoyed spending a good deal of time both in their ancestral homeland of Scotland and seeing many parts of the United States, Canada, and on the continent of Europe.
It has been a full life, with many sorrows but also many joys.