Join us at Bethany House for...

Mass on Saturdays - at 5:00pm (casual attire is our style)!

Rosary Prayer Group - at 6:00pm on the first Wednesday of the month!

Bible Study - at 6:30pm on Thursdays (the Life of Jesus - Serendipity Bible Study)!

Come and join us!

Click the picture for directions...

Click the picture for directions...
We’re located at 408 Levee Road in Mount Sterling, across from the MCHS football stadium.

Contact us at...

Saints Mary and Martha Church
at Bethany House
PO Box 502
Mount Sterling, KY
40353

859-404-8374
mamachurch4you@yahoo.com

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Vicar’s Victuals: The Feast of Our Lord’s Resurrection - Sermon

“Two Realities, One Truth”

A Homily – The Feast of Our Lord’s Resurrection
Acts 10:34-43; Colossians 3:1-4; St. John 20:1-18

We don’t know whether the birds were singing yet.  Certainly, if they had been there just a little earlier, they would be singing for all their might.  We know that it was still dark.  We don’t know whether Mary Magdalene or the others had gotten any sleep.  It’s doubtful, to say the least.  But we do know that there was grief and confusion in their hearts.

Saint John tells us that Mary Magdalene got up early and went to the tomb.  Like so many before and after her, the grave of a recently buried loved one has a powerful attraction.  There were still words that needed to be said, thoughts that needed to be untangled.  And, somehow, it just made more sense to do it there, in his Presence.

The understanding wasn’t there yet.  The promised Good News seemed torn to pieces by the recent events.  The reality of grief hadn’t yet caught up with the reality of victory.  And so on she walked to the lonely tomb.  The darkness must’ve been something of a comfort, though.  The crowds had been so intense.  Even the company of the disciples must’ve been a difficult burden to bear – their grief-worn faces a constant reminder of the ugly truth.

Arriving at the tomb, though, a new reality begins to break in.  As the dawn begins in the eastern sky, so it also begins in her heart and mind.  But, at least for now, it’s an unpleasant dawn.  The massive stone has been rolled away.  His Body has been removed.  And what little there was to hold onto is now gone.  With a startled sigh, she runs back to the Holy City to tell the others.  Disbelief, mingled with fear and unspeakable pain, courses through her heart and mind.

She tells them about it, breathless from the running agony.  The tears are streaming down her face.  The words are barely understandable as they pass her lips.  At first, they probably just looked at her.  This unwelcomed dawning of a different reality strikes them as hard as it struck her.  But, once the shock sets in, they rise to their feet and they run.  Peter and John run with all their might, Mary with them.  They run to hold onto whatever can be salvaged of their hopes and memories.

Standing at the tomb – inside the tomb – their hearts break.  Silently, they take it in.  For Peter and John, the journey back to the Holy City is likely slow and arduous.  For Mary, that journey will have to wait.  She needs to sit a while, look a while, think a while.  She needs to ponder what has been lost all over again.  All the while, the sun is rising in the sky.  All the while Jesus has been watching her.

Then the dawning of the new reality begins to pick up momentum.  She leans into the tomb one more time.  She sees them sitting there.  They ask why she’s weeping.  Slowly now, the pieces of the puzzle will come together because, as she turns, she faces Jesus.  The pieces of the puzzle always do seem to come together when we face Jesus, don’t they?

Thinking he’s someone else, her grief pours out.  She begs for answers – any answers.  The might of love within her for her Savior is ready to carry his Body from wherever they’ve taken it.  The determination in her heart is steadfast and not to be questioned.  And then he speaks her name.  He who created her – he who has known her from all eternity – speaks her name.  And a different kind of tears flood her eyes.

To hear his voice again, to hear him speak her name – he who knew her sins and forgave them – this is the light and the joy of her life.  Through the sobbing comes one word: “Rabbouni!”  Spoken not with sorrow, but with ecstasy.  The dawning of a new reality is taking hold within her.  His eyes are somehow more alive than before.  His voice is stronger.  His Presence more real.

He gathers her thoughts for her and points to the future.  Yes, there’s a future again!  Yes, the story has NOT ended.  Yes, the reality he spoke of before the crucifixion was indeed REAL!  He gives her a message for his brothers.  He makes her the first apostle of the Good News of this new reality.  Without hesitation she runs and blurts it out as quickly as she can: “I have seen the Lord!”  She can hardly believe her own words: “I have seen the Lord!!!”  The new reality has come, and with it the truth that abides.  She – we – will never be the same.

In the Name of the + Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Vicar’s Victuals: The Great Vigil of Easter - Sermon


“The Victory of Love and Light”

A Homily – The Great Vigil of Easter
Genesis 1:1-2:2; Genesis 22:1-18; Exodus 14:10-15:1; Romans 6:3-11; St. Matthew 28:1-10

There they stood. They didn’t know what was going to happen. They knew that going back wasn’t possible, but they also knew that going forward required a miracle. And why shouldn’t they expect a miracle? The Lord had just set them free from Pharaoh. His awful power was on display and he had given them Moses.

On top of that, hadn’t the Lord provided for Abraham? Hadn’t he given a ram to be sacrificed rather than Isaac? The same God who called Abraham and Sarah – the God who made promises about making them a great nation – did not allow their only son to die. In the heart and mind of Abraham, God had earned the proclamation: “The Lord will provide.”

And, if that weren’t enough, what about the immense power it took to create everything that is? Couldn’t the God who did that make a way through the sea? Couldn’t the God who spoke the sea into existence also do something to help them escape? In all of history, nowhere was God’s power more beautifully seen than in those days of creation. Nowhere was his care more in evidence.

Yet, there they stood, not knowing – only complaining. Yes, the pillar of cloud and fire moved behind them. Yes, Moses called them to trust in the Lord. But deep down they knew – they just knew – that slavery was better than death. They knew – so they thought – that they were going to die. And yet, God worked his wonders – wonders that did not depend on their faith or faithfulness.

Why? Why would God not be angry? Why would God not give up on them? Was it because the power of slavery to sin does horrible things to the human spirit? Was it because love sees beyond the present moment? Was it because bigger things were in store?

In all of human history, following the sin of Adam and Eve, there had never been a time free from slavery to sin and death. The children of Israel knew it in Egypt. They knew it in their constant struggle with God in the wilderness. They knew it in their repeated disobedience in the Promised Land. They even knew it in their return from exile.

But what to do? It just wouldn’t go away. Where they had been slaves to the Egyptians they now became slaves to their own desires. And their interpretation of God’s Law only seemed to create a new kind of slavery, slavery to pride.

It’s not difficult to imagine the sense of being rudderless, the sense of longing for a divine intervention. Historians tell us that the longing for Messiah was at a fever pitch when Gabriel appeared to Mary. The Bible tells us that there was keen interest in Jesus. But was it the kind of interest that would set spirits free? Was it the kind of following that would become a movement and make a difference?

We know the answer to that: Their slavery blocked out the Light that had come to dwell among them. But that didn’t seem to deter the Light. From the viewpoint of the world, that light dimmed so deeply that it died out. It left this world in on a cloudy Friday afternoon. But like the fire that moved to protect the Israelites of old, this Light made a move that no one saw coming. It exploded on the scene with a blaze of love that said, “You are no longer slaves! I am risen! Because I live, you also will live!”

The Love of God saw beyond the human condition. The Light of God brought our slavery out of the shadows. It blazed the power of grace and forgiveness into our lives and set us free! It was the answer to end all questions. It was the hope to end all doubt. It was the life that ended death. It was the holiness that frees us from sin.

It would seem that the patient love of God will indeed triumph over our stubbornness. It would seem that our slavery has ended!

In the Name of the + Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Vicar’s Victuals: The Solemn Liturgy of Our Lord’s Passion - Sermon

“Seeing It Differently”

A Homily – The Solemn Liturgy of Our Lord’s Passion – Wisdom of Solomon 2:1, 12-24; Hebrews 10:1-25; St. John 19:1-37

There used to be a commercial that aired on television that caught my attention – even at ten-years-old.  It was intended to remind us of the power of our words.  It showed a human mouth spewing out hateful words, insults – anything and everything that could be used to tear someone apart.  It also showed a child – a child that was on the receiving end of those words.  The expression on that child’s face was heart-breaking.  And the announcer simply said, “Words hurt.”

Jesus, as we read tonight, was very much on the receiving end of those kinds of words during his passion and crucifixion.  Even when they thought they were winning, those who hated him, distrusted him, misunderstood him weren’t willing to let up.  Like a snowball rolling downhill, the hate and the venom seemed to pick up speed and size.  The sneering and the taunting only increased in the face of his silence.

So let’s imagine ourselves tonight standing at the foot of the cross.  But instead of seeing the physical world – instead of seeing the cross, instead of seeing Jesus, the people, the rocks, the sky – let’s look at what’s invisible in that scene.  Let’s look at the causes of the crucifixion.  Let’s try to get a handle on the invisible battle that spilled right over into the visible world.

Our reading tonight from the Wisdom of Solomon speaks volumes about that battle.  From Adam and Eve down to us, and from us down to those who will be alive when Jesus returns, that battle has been and always will be constant.  It never goes away.  From the moment that Satan sought to take God’s place, that battle has been raging behind the scenes.

The weapons in that battle?  The weapons aimed at Jesus?  Jealousy, envy, bitterness, pride, slander, strife, and so many more.  The sneering of the ungodly toward the righteous man that we read about in the Wisdom of Solomon tells us everything we need to know about who – and what – killed Jesus.  Their words, their thoughts.  Sometimes our words and our thoughts.

They say: “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us” he “opposes our actions.”  They continue: “He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange” – insert “holy”.  They also say: “Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance.”  And then they say: “Let us condemn him to a shameful death…”

The wounds on Jesus’ body were but the outward manifestation of the spiritual battle that was taking place.  What we see is the attack on his Body and the outpouring of his Blood.  But what they’re trying to destroy is his very Soul and his very Divinity.  Those arrayed against the King of Glory on Golgotha want his power taken from him.  They want his voice destroyed.  They want his righteousness trampled upon.

And yet, somehow, love wins the day.  Jesus doesn’t return hate for hate.  He takes into himself each of their taunts.  He takes into himself all of their sneering, each of their blasphemies.  He absorbs it like a sponge.  He absorbs all of their bitterness, all of their disbelief.  And like a giant, cosmic bull’s eye, our Lord throws his arms wide open, takes every hit from every person who’s ever lived and who’s ever questioned God.

Sitting here tonight, it’s easy for us to forget that we were in that crowd.  We were there.  Every human being was there on Golgotha – our sins, our infirmities, our weaknesses, our bitterness; everything about us was there, in Jesus, on the cross.  But it’s easy to forget that.  It’s easy to think – with the aid of hindsight – that we love the Lord too much to ever contribute to his pain.  But we often do.  We do it either directly or indirectly.  We do it in our small acts of disobedience.  We do it when we fail to treat others as though they are Jesus himself.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind; and the second commandment that is like unto it, love your neighbor as yourself.”

If the love of Jesus is willing to wash our feet; if the love of Jesus is willing to offer his own Body and Blood as the sacrifice for our sins, then maybe – especially on this night – we need to look deeper.  Maybe we need to search harder for the answers that will help us grow into his Image and likeness.  Maybe we need to dig deeper to root out anything that is ungodly within us.  Wherever we stand at the foot of his cross tonight, whatever is crossing our minds, whatever is deep within us that we know we have to deal with, may we do it.  And may the Lord touch us with his love.

In the Name of the + Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Vicar’s Victuals: Holy Thursday: Mass of the Lord’s Supper - Sermon

“True Love”

Holy Thursday: Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Exodus 12:1-14a; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; St. John 13:1-15

Let’s talk about love.  Love makes us feel good.  Love welcomes us.  Love makes us feel worthy.  It includes us.  It covers us.  It can make us more than what we are.  But it can also challenge us.  Love can prod us on to become what we should be.  Love speaks the difficult truth in our lives.  It gives us perspective.  It doesn’t make excuses.

I think there’s an irony here.  The strength of love is found in its fragility.  It’s sturdy because it’s delicate.  It doesn’t convince by arguments or demands.  It convinces through humble example.  It persuades but it never shouts.  It only leads by example.

Listen to what Saint Paul says: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”

Even when correcting us, love speaks gently.  It takes down our defenses.  It helps us to listen.  When it clips our wings, it’s also helping us to soar.  Love reminds us of a world beyond ourselves.  As the Lord said, “…my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Love can do much within us – if we allow it.  But we often miss what’s being offered.  We’re faced with a choice: Either we trust the God who loves us, or we hold ourselves back because of our fear.  How quickly we forget that “There is no fear in love, but [that] perfect love casts out fear…”  We forget that “We love because [God] first loved us.”

And here’s the heart of the matter tonight: We can choose love over fear because God first loved us.  God’s love covered Adam and Eve’s shame.  God’s love brought Abraham to Canaan.  God’s love raised up Moses and brought about the Passover of Israel from slavery to freedom.  God’s love corrected Israel in the wilderness and in the kingdom and in the exile.  God’s love restored Israel to the Promised Land.  God’s love brought Messiah to earth – to live as one of us and to die for us.  God’s love washed our feet and calls us to do the same for others.  God’s love gave us the new Passover from sin and death to everlasting life.

In the course of one evening – one evening in the upper room – we see Love’s determination and Love’s frailty.  We see a Savior’s determination to help his disciples understand – one last time – that love both melts and shocks the heart.  He shows them the truth about the Passover meal: The truth that his Body is the bread and his Blood is the wine.  He shows them what they won’t understand until later – he shows them the sacrificial nature of his love.

Peter scoffs.  Jesus explains.  Peter’s corrected, and the light of love fills more of his heart.  It’s as simple as that.  Love cares too much to walk away.  Love knows that one more reminder is needed.  Love knows that the ordeal is coming, that the cross is waiting.  Love wastes no time in demonstrating strength through frailty.

In the Name of the + Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Vicar’s Victuals: The Passion of Our Lord: Palm Sunday - Sermon



“The Kissing Congressman”

The Passion of Our Lord: Palm Sunday
St. Matthew 21:1-11; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Philippians 2:5-11; St. Matthew 26:36-27:54

He’s now known as “the kissing Congressman”.  It’s not likely to be a title he’ll shake any time soon.  As a married man, he ran on a platform of God and family, faith and values.  Then he got caught fooling around with another woman – to be exact, with his friend’s wife.  Heaven only knows what his wife and children are thinking.  Whether he’ll keep his seat in Congress is anyone’s guess.

Journalists have been interviewing his constituents, asking them what they think of this man.  What’s surprising is the lack of outrage and disbelief.  What’s not surprising is the reason for that lack of disbelief.  Nowadays, we simply assume that what someone says is not as important as what they do.  Our word is no longer our bond.  That kind of honor and integrity seems to be gone – and we tolerate it because it seems like we have no choice.  And it’s not just our politicians who fail to “walk the walk”.  Increasingly it’s all of us – it’s in our families, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers.

The philosopher Aristotle said that action – not intention, not sentiment, not desire – action is character.  For him, the question of character and integrity isn’t based on what we say, but what we do.  The decision to trust someone is never based on their words.  It’s based on what they do and how they react.  And that’s a very sad thing.

In that kind of world, in that kind of mindset, trust is always reserved until it’s been tested.  Love is never relied on until it’s been proven.  Maybe this is why so many kinds of relationships are falling apart today.  Maybe this is why so many people choose not trust Jesus.  Maybe this is why there’s so much skepticism about the Bible.  Maybe this is why so many people don’t entrust their lives to Jesus.

We tend to live by the motto, “trust, but verify.”  We trust, but only so far.  We love, but we hold ourselves back just in case.  We risk, but we make sure there’s a way out.  We open ourselves to Jesus, but we keep a tight hold on our “common sense”.  We expect miracles, but we expect disappointment.  So, do we ever really trust?  Do we ever really love or risk or believe or make ourselves vulnerable?

Jesus does.  He declares his intentions, his love, his reliability over and over again – in both the Old and New Testaments!  Through prophets, seers, and sages he makes his intentions for the human race known.  And, when that’s not believed, he makes his intentions known by becoming one of us – by coming among us to preach the Gospel.  And when that isn’t believed, he performs signs and wonders – he gives sight to the blind, Good News to the poor, new hope for sinners, and even raises the dead to new life.  And when not even that is believed, he declares his intentions by allowing himself to die on the cross.

Is there no end to human skepticism?  Have we hurt each other so deeply with our selfishness that we no longer trust God?  Did you know that even while the percentages of people who believe in God holds steady, polling data indicates – in growing numbers – that they doubt the reliability of God’s intentions towards them.  To put it another way, they believe God’s there but they don’t believe what he’s saying.

At the beginning of our lesson from Isaiah, we heard the prophet say something interesting.  He said:

“14Just as there were many who were astonished at him – so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals – 15so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.”

He will startle many nations, kings will shut their mouths because of him.  They’ll suddenly see and contemplate the intentions of God’s servant.  Why?  Why will they suddenly be surprised at what God is saying?  Because God has had no choice but to put his intentions into visible actions – actions that an unbelieving mankind can understand.  He called to us; he said, “Come, let us reason together.”  But we wouldn’t believe what we couldn’t see.  So he sent us a suffering Servant, Jesus, that we might open our eyes and listen with our hearts.

Isn’t it interesting, though, that it took the marring of his appearance, the wounding of his Body, the striking of his glory, and the rejection of his love to make people listen?  Maybe it’s worse than that.  Maybe it’s instructive that it took all those things to make mankind listen.  It certainly teaches us two uncomfortable lessons today: First, the growing mistrust of God is as real today as it ever was; and, second, the only cure is a Church – the Body of Christ – following in the footsteps of the suffering Servant.

We know that there will always be those who call out, “let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.”  We know and they know that if they haven’t believed in his acts of love and surrender, no miracle will persuade them.  But we also know that there are others who are watching Jesus on the cross.  In fact, they’re watching him through us.  They’re watching to see whether our actions will match our words.  They’re watching to see whether we really believe.

And that’s the question before us this morning, at the beginning of Holy Week.  Do we believe?  We say we do.  We profess it.  But are we willing to go all the way with Jesus?  Are we willing to throw caution, care, and common sense to the side and simply trust that Jesus will carry us through?  Are we willing to go with him to the cross?

In the Name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.