Anglican Church of the Incarnation, Cambridge, Mass.



Sermon preached by Mr. David Trumbull on October 6, 2002, being the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

The Vicar is in Dixie today, so we read Morning Prayer when, normally, we attend Mass.

I am reminded of the scene, in the Margaret Mitchell novel, Gone with the Wind, when Scarlett's father has died. The Baptist and Methodist preachers in rural Georgia, if invited, would offer extemporaneous prayers and, "seldom stopped before all the mourners were in tears and bereaved feminine relatives screaming with grief."

Now that would not do for the burial of the Roman Catholic Gerald O'Hara. But there was no priest available and the O'Hara family didn't know what to do. That's when Ashley Wilkes simply gets up and recites the Order of Burial from the Book of Common Prayer.

Lacking a priest, the sacred mystery cannot be celebrated, but our worship goes on, following a beautiful and reverent form that goes back to the early church and even to ancient Jewish prayers.

As today's Gospel lesson concludes, "when the multitudes saw [the healing], they marveled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men." Although we, as Anglicans, do not fully subscribe to the reformed doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, we do have, in our magnificent liturgy, an excellent resource for a lay-led worship service when, as this morning, no ordained minister is available.

Of course, it is better to have a priest and to have the Mass. That's why we set aside four times a year as the Ember Days, when we fast and pray specifically for increase in ministry. A few weeks ago, Fr. Woodruff preached on the Autumn Ember Days and reminded us of the reconciliation of God and man through the Cross of Christ --reconciliation entrusted by God into the hands of his ministers on earth.

This sacramental priesthood is a gift, a gift we share with our Roman Catholic and Orthodox brethren. God has given us men, godly men, and committed to them the ministry of reconciliation. As the Gospel lesson also tells us, "...that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins." And, as we read in our prayerbook, "God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ... hath given power, and commandment, to his Ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people the Absolution and Remission of their sins."

God calls a man to his service in the sacred priesthood and gives him the grace to fulfill that office. But he leaves a role for his church. We rightly expect our clergy to know the Scriptures, theology, church history, and the like. We look to our priest for moral guidance. Our Vicar is the administrator of our mission church. Certainly the Lord could give a man competence in all these things at the same time that, in the laying on of the Bishop's hands, he confers the power to absolve, bless, and consecrate. But He does not. He gives us, his people, a role in forming ministers for God's church.

For our particular branch of the One Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church --the Province of Christ the King-- it is at our seminary --St. Joseph of Arimethea Seminary in Berkley, California-- that our priests are trained. Our Vicar is a graduate of this fine institution.

When the Vicar returns from Dixie you'll hear more about St. Joseph's Seminary and how we here at Church of the Incarnation can support this highly important institution. Specifically, I hope you all plan to be here on Sunday, October 27, --the Feast Day of Christ the King-- for a special presentation about the Seminary.

And when Father Woodruff returns, next week he will, God willing, celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass, the nuptial mystery, the re-presentation of Christ as groom in His union with His Church.