Faith After Doubt – Chapters 9 & 10

I had the privilege during my time in Colorado to attend two conferences with Thomas Keating teaching contemplative prayer which opened a new window my soul that I had never noticed.  Keating’s experience of spiritual growth is that when one grows into a deeper understanding, while one transcends, the previous spiritual history is incorporated or included as part of the foundation.   As one climbs stairs, the previous stairs remain as a foundation for the present step as without the previous steps the stairway would collapse.  The theologian, Karl Barth was asked how he would summarize the essence of the millions of words he had published, he replied, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  Madeleine L’Engle wrote: “The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”  This is why the Bible did not get rid of the Old Testament after the New Testament books were written and included in the canon of Scripture.  Spiritual growth is a cumulative process.

Jesus points to this when he teaches: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets.  I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.  For I tell you truly until heaven and earth pass away, not a single job, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished….

McLaren that spiritual growth is messy and difficult and is like leaving a base camp where you have all the comforts of what feels like home and then you leave to go into a desert where all those conveniences do not exist. He also says that the lines are not fully delineated and that we can vacillate back and forth, with one foot in the present phase while steeping out into the unknown. 

Those who have lost their faith or were never involved in spirituality will seek the same benefits that spirituality gives from some other source: meaning, belonging and purpose.  People who are lost seek other places to belong to find meaning, belonging and purpose, even when the outcome is becoming involved in extremist groups.  McLaren notes John Lennon’s song, Imagine a “world without religion.”  When one has been either hurt or for whatever reason not found meaning in a spiritual practice and faith, one settles for something else that will unite and divide around other ideologies, dictators, racial identities, etc.   It is here, McLaren states that by helping these individuals find doubt that they can begin to search for a spirituality that will offer life instead of death.

Questions for Reflection

  1. McLaren says that faith is messy and difficult.  In what ways throughout your life has faith been this way?  What were the outcomes when you entered the mess and difficulty?
  2. Repeating the image that the Church is a heavenly gift in an earthen vessel with cracks in it, what has been your experience of both the difficulties and shortcomings of your church experience while also seeing their strengths and vital role to play in our world?

9. Faith, Beliefs, and Revolutionary Love

McLaren sees faith development as moving through the development of understanding simple dualistic beliefs (e.g. good vs. evil) and Complexity where we learn and discover our beliefs of understanding what this whole God’s action in history is about.  Then after these two phases seem to leave us empty and we travail through the wilderness of Perplexity, if we remain faithful to the search that we will come to discover “revolutionary love.”   Then he defines this love as “loving as God would love: infinitely, graciously, and extravagantly.  Put it in more mystical terms, it means loving with God, letting divine love fill me and flow through me, without discrimination or limit … coming from the heart of the lover not the merit of the beloved and the correctness of the beloved’s beliefs.”   McLaren quotes Alan Watts as saying that Belief clings, but faith lets go.   Faith is an openness to the truth of God which is beyond what we already know.

McLaren notes Jesus’s Beatitudes in Matthew and Luke teaching a way of life.  In fact the early church was called “the Way” before it was called the “Church.”  Love is the way of the Spirit of God moves through us to others.  Humility, righteousness, and other qualities are how love manifests itself.

Jesus ran into beliefs all the time and many of them had to be challenged because they blocked a person from linking up with the Spirit of God and becoming a living vessel of the Divine Presence.   Jesus consistently challenged the beliefs of the disciples which restricted them from being vessels of God.   Beliefs influence and reflect behavior.   God continues to challenge our beliefs until there is nothing left but himself.  Our beliefs are like a diving board to fall into God.

One of the items that McLaren, in my opinion fails to address, is that “love” also includes the boundaries of behavior and the beliefs that drive the behavior.  Compassion forgives while maintaining the boundary.   Compassion does not throw away judgement which is up to God.  Love and judgement are two sides of the coin of love.   Love and judgement are held in tension.  Judgement doesn’t condemn.  True judgement corrects with compassion.  One of the problems in our culture that love has been degraded into a “feel good” feeling without the boundaries of respecting self and others such as modeled by the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes.

Questions for Reflection.

  1. Describe the relationship between belief and faith in your life?  Do faith and belief help support one another? 
  • How do faith and belief either help or hinder your being incarnated with the Living Presence of God?


Keeping a Holy Lent with Church of the Annunciation, Luling, TX

Holy Eucharist, Rite I


Hymn in Procession

The Word of God

A Penitential Order, Rite I:

The people standing, the Celebrant says

Bless the Lord who forgiveth all our sins.

People    His mercy endureth forever.

The Decalogue

God spake these words, and said: I am the Lord thy God who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods but me.
Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them.
Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.
Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Honor thy father and thy mother.
Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt do no murder.
Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not steal.
Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not covet.
Lord have mercy upon us, and write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee.

The Celebrant may read one of the following sentences:

Seeing that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.    Hebrews 4:14,16

Let us humbly confess our sins to Almighty God:

A period of silence is observed.

Almighty and most merciful father,
we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep,
we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, we have offended against thy holy laws,
we have left undone those things which we ought to have done,
and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
spare thou those who confess their faults,
restore thou those who are penitent,
according to thy promises declared unto mankind
in Christ Jesus our Lord;
and grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake,
that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
to the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

The Priest stands and says

The Almighty and merciful Lord grant you absolution and remission of all your sins, true repentance, amendment of life, and the grace and consolation of his Holy Spirit. Amen.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

The Celebrant says to the people

         The Lord be with you.

People       And with thy spirit.

Celebrant  Let us pray.

The Celebrant and the People say the Collect.

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lessons
Old Testament: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

After each Reading, the Reader may say

The Word of the Lord.

People       Thanks be to God.

The Response: Psalm 22:22-30

22 Praise the Lord, you that fear him; *
stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;
all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.

23 For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
neither does he hide his face from them; *
but when they cry to him he hears them.

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly; *
I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
and those who seek the Lord shall praise him: *
“May your heart live for ever!”

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, *
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the Lord; *
he rules over the nations.

28 To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship; *
all who go down to the dust fall before him.

29 My soul shall live for him;
my descendants shall serve him; *
they shall be known as the Lord’s for ever.

30 They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn *
the saving deeds that he has done.

The Gospel: 

Then, all standing, the Deacon or a Priest reads the Gospel, first saying

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark.

People             Glory be to thee, O Lord.

Mark 8:31-38:  Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

After the Gospel, the Reader says

The Gospel of the Lord.

People             Praise be to thee, O Christ.

The Message:  …………………………………………………………………… The Rev. Mark C. Bigley

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,

    the Father, the Almighty,

    maker of heaven and earth,

    of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

    the only Son of God,

    eternally begotten of the Father,

    God from God, Light from Light,

    true God from true God,

    begotten, not made,

    of one Being with the Father.

    Through him all things were made.

    For us and for our salvation

        he came down from heaven:

    by the power of the Holy Spirit

         he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,

         and was made man.

 For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

     he suffered death and was buried.

    On the third day he rose again

         in accordance with the Scriptures;

    he ascended into heaven

         and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

    He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,

         and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

    With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.

    He has spoken through the Prophets.

    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

    We look for the resurrection of the dead,

         and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Prayers of the People, Form I

In the course of the silence after each bidding, the People offer their own prayers, either silently or aloud.

I ask your prayers for God’s people throughout the world; for our Bishops David and Rayford, for this gathering; and for all ministers and people.

Pray for the Church.


I ask your prayers for peace; for goodwill among nations; and for the well‑being of all people.

Pray for justice and peace.


I ask your prayers for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the oppressed, and those in prison.

Pray for those in any need or trouble.

We pray also for Legacy Ranch, its kids and its staff.


I ask your prayers for all who seek God, or a deeper knowledge of him.
Pray that they may find and be found by him.


I ask your prayers for the departed.

Pray for those who have died.


Members of the congregation may ask the prayers or the thanksgivings of those present

3.  For the Human Family
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

11.  For the Parish
Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for this parish family. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within  your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

25.  For those in the Armed Forces of our Country
Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad, especially Dan Braston, Reggie G., John Paredes, Theresa, Rene Rios, John DuBose, Dan Gower, Jeremiah Mowdy, Chris Lopez , JD Murray, Madison Ramm, and Andrew Chaddock.  Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

39. For those who Influence Public Opinion
Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices: Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

43.  For Rain

O God, heavenly Father, who by thy Son Jesus Christ hast promised to all those who seek thy kingdom and its righteousness all things necessary to sustain their life: Send us, we entreat thee, in this time of need, such moderate rain and showers, that we may receive the fruits of the earth, to our comfort and to thy honor; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

I ask your thanksgiving for:

+    The prayer warriors of Annunciation

+    The Rev. Mark Bigley and his family

+    The Rev. Russel Matthews and his family

+    San Pedro Apostól, our companion church in the Diocese of SE Mexico

+    For those who have been restored to health.

+    Our neighbors in the Diocese of West Texas:  we give thanks for St. Matthias’, Devine; and St. Andrew’s, Port Isabel.

For a Birthday
O God, our times are in your hand: Look with favor, we pray, on your servants among us as they begin another year. Grant that they may grow in wisdom and grace, and strengthen their trust in your goodness all the days of their life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Praise God for those in every generation in whom Christ has been honored.

Pray that we may have grace to glorify Christ in our own day.


The Celebrant adds a concluding Collect.
O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Minister may then say one or more of the following sentences, first saying

Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him.

Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.  Matthew 11:28

God so loved the world, that he gave his only‑begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15

If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the perfect offering for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.  1 John 2:1‑2

The Holy Communion

The Celebrant may begin the Offertory with one of the sentences on page 376, or with some other sentence of Scripture.

Offertory Hymn:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Him above ye heavenly host.  Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  Amen

Eucharistic Prayer II

The people remain standing. The Celebrant, whether bishop or priest, faces them and sings or says

The Lord be with you.

People                         And with thy spirit.

Celebrant                    Lift up your hearts.

People                         We lift them up unto the Lord.

Celebrant                    Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.

People                         It is meet and right so to do.

Then, facing the Holy Table, the Celebrant proceeds

It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, holy Father, almighty, everlasting God.

Here a Proper Preface is sung or said on all Sundays, and on other occasions as appointed.

Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying,

Celebrant and People

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts:

Heaven and earth are full of thy glory.

Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High.

Here may be added

Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

The people kneel or stand.

Then the Celebrant continues

All glory be to thee, O Lord our God, for that thou didst create heaven and earth, and didst make us in thine own image; and, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to take our nature upon him, and to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption. He made there a full and perfect sacrifice for the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious death and sacrifice, until his coming again.

At the following words concerning the bread, the Celebrant is to hold it, or lay a hand upon it; and at the words concerning the cup, to hold or place a hand upon the cup and any other vessel containing wine to be consecrated.

For in the night in which he was betrayed, he took bread; and when he had given thanks to thee, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Likewise, after supper, he took the cup; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink this, all of you; for this is my Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins. Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Wherefore, O Lord and heavenly Father, we thy people do celebrate and make, with these thy holy gifts which we now offer unto thee, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; and looking for his coming again with power and great glory.

And we most humbly beseech thee, O merciful Father, to hear us, and, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, to bless and sanctify these gifts of bread and wine, that they may be unto us the Body and Blood of thy dearly‑beloved Son Jesus Christ.

And we earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, whereby we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies. Grant, we beseech thee, that all who partake of this Holy Communion may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, and be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction; and also that we and all thy whole Church may be made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord;

By whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost all honor and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end.  AMEN.

And now, as our Savior Christ hath taught us, we are bold to say,

People and Celebrant

Our Father, who art in heaven,

  hallowed be thy Name,

  thy kingdom come,

  thy will be done,

    on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

  as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

  but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,

  for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Breaking of the Bread

The Celebrant breaks the consecrated Bread.  A period of silence is kept. 

Then may be sung or said

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us;

Therefore let us keep the feast. 

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,

have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,

have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,

grant us thy peace.

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

The Gifts of God for the People of God.  Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.

The ministers receive the Sacrament in both kinds, and then immediately deliver it to the people.

The Bread and the Cup are given to the communicants with these words

The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving.

The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s Blood was shed for thee, and be thankful.

After Communion, the Celebrant says

Let us pray.

The People may join in saying this prayer

Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee for that thou dost feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs, through hope, of thy everlasting kingdom. And we humbly beseech thee, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end.  Amen.

The Bishop when present, or the Priest, gives the blessing

The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you, and remain with you always.  Amen.

Then the Ministers and People may greet one another in the name of the Lord.

The Peace

All stand. The Celebrant says to the people

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

People     And with thy spirit.

(Please pass the Peace from your seat, remaining socially distant.)

Welcome + Greetings + Announcements

Closing Hymn

Deacon      Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

People       Thanks be to God.


This is the table of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 All baptized Christians are welcome to receive Holy Communion here.

+  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +

Lenten Study:  During Lent, Fr. Mark will lead a reflection on Brian McLaren’s Faith After Doubt It appears to Fr. Mark that Jesus’s greatest doubt arising from the three major temptations was to doubt his true self and his purpose—to doubt his true identity.  The wilderness is the place of our identity crisis where we stop to ask, “Who am I” and “Whose am I” followed by “Where do I/we go from here?”  The book is available from online bookstores if you care to read along (try, where the Church will receive a benefit from your purchase!).


Lent is also the time to learn about, and choose the saints who speak to you the most.  Lent Madness with its 32 saints began Thursday, 18 Feb, but you can jump in anytime.  To sign up for daily emails through the last day of Lent, simply enter your email on the web  

It’s totally free, you will not be blasted with spam later on, and it is really rewarding.  If anyone would like a mailed or emailed copy of the Saintly Scorecard Bracket, Betty Fraim will be happy to provide one.   Contact Betty at 512.745.2606, or


What’s the Real Message?

Epiphany 5B; Mark 1:29 ff.; 2/7/21

Have you ever been stereotyped before?     

For my first ten years as a priest: people around the diocese saw me as a youth worker while not seeing any of the other ministry skills I possessed as a spiritual director or a counselor.  It was ironic that years later during a phone interview by a search committee who was looking for an educator, pastor and youth worker, the interview was going well until one member looked on my resume and I heard him say in the background, “hey, this guy is old!”  I was 44 at the time.  What did he know about youth work?  I had done it for 15 years. 

Then there are those of us who have experienced deep grief over the loss of a loved one, who are stereotyped by others (lacking awareness) as not being strong or faithful enough to “get over it.”   Being stereotyped can be a painful and isolating experience.

Perceptions aren’t always reality. 

People tend to stop looking at the person once they create an image of who that person is in their mind.  We’re tempted to stop looking once our initial perceptions are in place.  Haven’t we all categorized others while not looking for the other qualities that might lie within them?  Many actors play a part so well that they are not invited into other roles.  Isn’t that right, Mr. Spock? 

In what ways have you been stereotyped or type cast?  

Jesus faced the same kind of stereotypes like we do and had to live with them: 

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Why didn’t Nathaniel bother to check Jesus’ birth certificate to see that he was born in Bethlehem? 

How about the Pharisees stereotype:  “It is only by the prince of demons that this fellow drives out demons.” 

The Pharisees envy of Jesus inhibited them from keeping an open mind and led to long practice of character assassination.  

Today in Mark, Jesus is stereotyped as a healer…not the living flesh incarnated presence of God.  We’re still affected by this stereotype. 

Being human, we spend most of our time involved in sensory activity.  If sick, we are conditioned to think of physical means to physical illness.  Few realize that healing that was practiced in the church was forbidden by Pope Alexander as he forbade priests to practice healing. 

As physical science expanded, the practice of healing was relegated to the physical realm of medicine.  Spirituality was split away from physical healing.  Spirit, mind and body, once understood as three parts of a whole, were separated.  

To this day, the general population and even many church members see healing as belonging to the medical doctor alone, separating the spirit and mind from the body.  

Even though science is discovering this error, the centuries of conditioning keep us from realizing the power of the spiritual and mental to influence physical health. 

Jesus was stereotyped as a healer.  He was also stereotyped as a social justice authority, when a man asked him for a judgement against another man for a property dispute.  Jesus would not attach himself to either role.  Jesus didn’t come to build a political utopia. 

Jesus states clearly: Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.

It’s easy to lose Jesus and his central message in the peripherals. 

If God isn’t leading us, then our emotions are.  When we subject ourselves to our emotions, we create all kinds of chaos, as is evident in society today. 

No longer do we have to stereotype Jesus as something less than he really is.  Projecting our ideas on Jesus can leave us alienated from the message of who Jesus really is.

But what is the message?

I’ll make this simpler than it is as Luke records what Jesus states:  “The Kingdom of God is within you.” 

+Jesus merges with us.  There is no distance from God. 

+Jesus doesn’t have a message.  He is the message.

+We are created in the Image of God and as we discover our true selves in him, we become like him. 

+Jesus is one with us—NOW! 

+Our true identity is in him. 

Let him come alive again in you right here, right now.


1st Sunday after Christmas: Morning Prayer Rite 2

Opening Hymn

Opening Sentences:

Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, “I dwell in the high and holy place and also with the one who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite.”    Isaiah 57:15

Confession of Sin

The Officiant says to the people

Let us humbly confess our sins against God and our neighbor:

Silence may be kept.

Officiant and People together, all kneeling

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

The Priest alone says
Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.

The Invitatory and Psalter

OfficiantLord, open our lips.
PeopleAnd our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Officiant and People

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Alleluia.  To us a child is born: Come let us adore him.  Alleluia.

Venite     Psalm 95:1-7

Come, let us sing to the Lord; *
    let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *
    and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

For the Lord is a great God, *
    and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the caverns of the earth, *
    and the heights of the hills are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, *
    and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, *
    and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. *
    Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

Psalm 147 or 147:13-21

[1 Hallelujah!
How good it is to sing praises to our God! *
how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!

2 The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; *
he gathers the exiles of Israel.

3 He heals the brokenhearted *
and binds up their wounds.

4 He counts the number of the stars *
and calls them all by their names.

5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power; *
there is no limit to his wisdom.

6 The Lord lifts up the lowly, *
but casts the wicked to the ground.

7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; *
make music to our God upon the harp.

8 He covers the heavens with clouds *
and prepares rain for the earth;

9 He makes grass to grow upon the mountains *
and green plants to serve mankind.

10 He provides food for flocks and herds *
and for the young ravens when they cry.

11 He is not impressed by the might of a horse; *
he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;

12 But the Lord has pleasure in those who fear him, *
in those who await his gracious favor.]

13 Worship the Lord, O Jerusalem; *
praise your God, O Zion;

14 For he has strengthened the bars of your gates; *
he has blessed your children within you.

15 He has established peace on your borders; *
he satisfies you with the finest wheat.

16 He sends out his command to the earth, *
and his word runs very swiftly.

17 He gives snow like wool; *
he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.

18 He scatters his hail like bread crumbs; *
who can stand against his cold?

19 He sends forth his word and melts them; *
he blows with his wind, and the waters flow.

20 He declares his word to Jacob, *
his statutes and his judgments to Israel.

21 He has not done so to any other nation; *
to them he has not revealed his judgments.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,

so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,

until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.

The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;

and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.


John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

The Apostles’ Creed

Officiant and People together

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
    creator of heaven and earth;
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
    He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
        and born of the Virgin Mary.
    He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
        was crucified, died, and was buried.
    He descended to the dead.
    On the third day he rose again.
    He ascended into heaven,
        and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
    He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
    the holy catholic Church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Prayers

OfficiantThe Lord be with you.
PeopleAnd also with you.
OfficiantLet us pray.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
     hallowed be thy Name,
     thy kingdom come,
     thy will be done,
         on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
     as we forgive those
         who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
     but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
     and the power, and the glory,
     for ever and ever. Amen.


V.    Show us your mercy, O Lord;
R.    And grant us your salvation.
V.    Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
R.    Let your people sing with joy.
V.    Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
R.    For only in you can we live in safety.
V.    Lord, keep this nation under your care;
R.    And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
V.    Let your way be known upon earth;
R.    Your saving health among all nations.
V.    Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
R.    Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
V.    Create in us clean hearts, O God;
R.    And sustain us with your Holy Spirit.

The Collect for the First Sunday after Christmas
Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

For a Birthday
O God, our times are in your hand: Look with favor, we pray, on all your servants as they begin another year. Grant that they may grow in wisdom and grace, and strengthen their trust in your goodness all the days of theirlives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Collect for Peace

O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For those in the Armed Forces of our Country
Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer for Mission
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A General Thanksgiving 
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us.

We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

Prayer of St. Chrysostom

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.

V. Alleluia! Let us bless the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.  Alleluia!


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore.
Amen.    2 Corinthians 13:14

The Benediction
May God the Father bless us, God the Son heal us, God the Holy Spirit give us strength. May God the holy and undivided Trinity guard our bodies, save our souls, and bring us safely to his heavenly country; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.Closing Hymn


Gabriel’s Wisdom

Advent 4B; Luke 1:46 ff; 12/20/20

Do you believe in angels?  Have you ever heard the voice of an angel in a quiet moment or seen or heard an angel in a dream?   God’s messengers can come to us in many ways.

If you had been visited by an angel, would you hesitate to tell another?  If so, we might be able to identify in some way with Mary who didn’t tell anyone about her experience with Gabriel until she traveled to see her cousin Elizabeth.  After all, if you saw or heard an angel, who would you tell?  Who would listen to you and not back away, give you a funny look, change the subject or all of a sudden excuse themselves, remembering that they had another appointment that they had forgot about. 

Gabriel offered compassion to Mary telling her that her cousin Elizabeth was also with child, thus giving her someone with whom to confide.   How uncomfortable it is when we have a spiritual experience, or a struggle and there is no one to hear us to break the isolation. 

There’s a certain vulnerability in telling the story of our spiritual experience.  Jesus remarked on this in Matthew 7 “not to cast our pearls before swine” because of the risk of having our spirit and our experiences dishonored.    Yet we face the paradox in Luke 8 when we hear after Jesus heals the Gerasene demoniac from his demons to “tell others what God has done for you.” 

The pattern of the early church reveals an eagerness of its disciples to reveal the work of the Spirit in their lives. The Church today is much more timid than Mary’s day, more reluctant I think to tell others what God has done in our lives.   I ponder why that is? 

Gabriel visits Mary and Mary has a story to tell that she is blessed among women. 

Are we not also blessed among others?  Do we consider ourselves as beings who are blessed?  How have we been blessed?   Is being blessed is just for those few special people in the Bible?   Or is being blessed for each of us?  Do we feel blessed by 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon after being inundated with phone calls, texts, computers that don’t work, crabby bosses or employees, losing a job, the faucet that broke at home, the assaults and deceptions of the media, sick children or grandchildren, and the list goes on…?   

Why would God have sent Gabriel to Mary had it not been to pass the blessing on to us? 

When we receive that blessing again on Christmas to whom will we go?  What shall we tell them? 

Is there not a Mary and an Elizabeth in each of us?  Mary has received a story and is bursting at the seams with no one to tell except for a cousin over a day’s journey away.  Telling the story is vital for our spiritual health or it becomes dormant within and soon becomes trampled upon and lost by the tasks of the day which are pale in comparison. 

Is there not an Elizabeth within us who is able to hear the story of Mary and others who desperately need to tell the good news bequeathed to them or release the sorrow of a painful event? 

Gabriel points us to the Mary and Elizabeth within us all—to the necessity of the hearing and the telling the Life of God imparted to us all.  Share the Story.  Receive the Story.  This is our birth rite and the most important daily task we can ever be about.

May the Incarnation be enfleshed in you,

Fr. Mark Bigley

Church of Annunciation, Episcopal