SERMONS OF THE REVEREND CANON STANLEY SINCLAIR 18 October 2020

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.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

SERMON FOR ST LUKE’S DAY 2015

St Paul said, “Only Luke is with me”

There is such poignance to those words of the great Apostle. We can understand at this time. He had shared so many remarkable times with Saint Luke. We today, so many of us, unable to spend time with those we love except under the most difficult limitations, can appreciate the loneliness felt by Saint Paul. He had found a great friend in young Luke..

It is generally believed that Saint Luke was a Greek born in Syria, and may even have been a slave as a young man, who was then educated as a physician by his owner and later released from servitude to carry on his ministry, and joined Saint Paul in his mission.

Loyalty is a trait that we admire—and it may go further, out of compassion for a friend. We must obviously temper our loyalty in all cases with conscience and common sense. When Jesus had to withdraw from this world, and the apostles witnessed his ascension, we can well imagine the depth of their personal sorrow, despite their amazement and adoration as He rose to heaven. They had been through so much together. They wanted to be with Jesus always. They would think back to that moment when, after more than two years together, He had to tell his closest associates, “Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day….” His arrest and crucifixion were a terrible shock and brought them sorrow. And yet, their loyalty was unshaken. Only once did they waver, out of fear: only John among them was at the foot of the cross, but they were with Him after He rose from the dead, and for his ascension.

Saint Luke’s Book of the Acts of the Apostles shows us how, when they were empowered by the Spirit, they went forth to tell others, face persecution and even death, in loyalty to Christ and to his Gospel.
Saint Paul himself is among the greatest examples of loyalty, as the Acts and his Epistles clearly show. Although he began as an enemy of Christ and of the Church, after he received his special vision from Jesus, he was constant in his faith, and undertook those arduous missionary journeys, fearlessly preaching, spreading the Church around the Empire.

The loyalty of Saint Luke was a tremendous boost to Paul. They had worked together for many years. When the great Apostle wrote this Epistle, he knew that his days on earth were numbered. He had gone to Rome to be tried, because as a Roman citizen he was entitled to be tried there, and he had demanded this right mainly to extend his apostolate and preach in the greatest city in the world. He was probably never in doubt that it was a risky move. Awaiting trial, he lived under house arrest.

Who is untouched when we read how Paul sent all those personal messages, some of them about minor matters, but somehow bringing us close to him. And under the circumstances, it tugs at the heart to hear, “Only Luke is with me.”

Luke was one of the Seventy, the second group of Apostles sent out by Jesus. He was a physician, deeply moved by the healing miracles and ministry of Christ. Biblical scholars note that he was very well acquainted with nautical terms, as an experienced sailor. He often travelled with St Paul to make the trip easier for this great man,. They were both on board ship when a storm almost ended in disaster, and Paul’s inspiration of his captors saved the day.

Paul had a chronic illness, and Luke undoubtedly looked after his health on those strenuous preaching missions. He wrote in Greek, which was an indication of his education, so he was an equal of the great and scholarly Apostle. For all this, St Luke said almost nothing about himself. It is what we find between the lines about the man who told us what happened after Easter, and narrated it so well.
Above all, St Luke’s loyalty during those tumultuous years contributed greatly to the spread of the Gospel to so much of the world. Nor was he just a commentator, since he too covered those thousands of miles and faced the same trials and dangers that the others endured. He was the friend we all would want to have, with integrity beyond question.

To the extent that his reports can be checked these two thousand years later, his accuracy is notable. He had done a great deal of research, among the citizens of Bethlehem and Galilee about the early days, and then later on he could draw upon the reminiscences of the Twelve plus his own memory. He includes so many things, that the other evangelists were unable to tell. In preparing a play some years ago for Helen Pletsch, called “Interviews with the Lady,” I was so impressed, putting together all that we know of Mary, most of it is in Saint Luke’s Gospel. He obviously knew her well, and she had shared her feelings with him, unusual in those days.

He includes the words which we Christians have used ever since, Mary’s words, the simple but beautiful lyrics of the Magnificat, “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” and his glorious report of the angels’ song, “Glory be to God on high.” Whether the words were theirs, or St Luke had been inspired to imagine the meaning of the beautiful heavenly song he heard, we feel uplifted when ever we hear or chant their song.

But when we look at the full body of Luke’s writing, he see he was not just a man of letters and medicine, but a great historian. And he also had what the Scots call lealty, faithfulness to the truth. He reports everything: the good days and bad, the ups and downs. His accuracy of description has been noted by both archaeologists and modern historical researchers.

Ancient church sources also say he was an artist; not only that, but that the familiar icons of Jesus as a young shepherd, and then the arresting portrayal of the face of
our Lord as the saviour of the world, were painted by Saint Luke. So it is entirely possible that we owe Him even for our idea of the Lord’s appearance, and again we can trust him to be accurate.

So Saint Luke is one of the great models of the Christian life, and above all, in his loyalty. And how much that is needed in the Church of today:
Above all, loyalty to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, when so many seem willing to re-shape Christianity to suit their own ideas, rather than His.

He had loyalty to the truth of the Gospel, loyalty to the traditions that have been inspired by the Holy Spirit and were upheld for so many generations in the life of the Church, by those who wanted us to have a glimpse into those wonderful days with Jesus.

Our faith demands of us loyalty, too: Loyalty in our membership, our devotions, our dedication to the teachings which Saint Luke and the other evangelists have passed on to us, and Saint Paul has interpreted so remarkably for us; and should encourage our love for one another.

Unfortunately in our time there has been much disloyalty amid the confusion, disorder, and conflict in the ranks of the Christian Church, which have been more pronounced than in any other era, since that of the famous heresies that tore the fabric of the Church in the Fourth Century and then the devastating sixteenth century Reformation. As you are well aware, we are going through another such unsettling period.

God so often raises up faithful people to meet the challenge. We have only to review how these great figures arose through history’s often challenging and chaotic events: Whatever happened, the light of the Holy Spirit may have flickered, but was never put out. The psalms continued to be sung and touch the hearts of worshippers with a strong sense of their connection with God. In the 4th century, when the original spirit of the Church could well have been lost, there came the creeds, and such great interpreters of Christ as Saint Augustine and Saint Athanasius.

The 16th Century Reformation tore the Church apart but also brought forth Luther, Cranmer, and other remarkable Christian leaders. Ironically, the Reformation restored the Church in England to loyalty by means of the Book of Common Prayer, in its poetic beauty and faithfulness to the most ancient liturgy; the accuracy of the King James English Bible; the Apostolic succession of bishops; and the continuation of the Real Presence of Christ in Holy Communion. We retain all this, and even the ceremonial robes in use in the earliest days; the silver chalice like the one used by Christ Himself; and the cross as the great symbol for all time.

We are trying to remain loyal. But this is an age in which we have had a lot of what has been called “religious consumerism,” the picking and choosing based on individual likes and dislikes, perhaps in some people the fear of not being on the winning team, or just a general unease and uncertainty.

We can sympathise with those who have been affected by all this, having had to vote with our feet in the past, not with a desire for change but out of loyalty to the true nature of the Christian faith, the Christian Church, and our Anglican heritage. And yet, we must not allow the events of these times to weaken the steadfastness of our faith, nor remove our loyalty to the body of Christ. We seek the restoration of the Church to holier ways.

Paul was often beleaguered, his little churches riven with problems, and yet he persevered in faithfulness to Christ. Saint Luke is an example of the many who did not allow any of these weaknesses to interfere with his loyalty to what the Church stood for, and the Son of God who had brought her into being. That is why we have every reason to be unwavering in the faith of Jesus, who made it clear that “whoever is ashamed of me or my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of, when He comes in glory.” And rightly so: since we believe Him to be the very Lord of life.

O HEAVENLY FATHER, grant that we may always be true to thy Son; believe in Him, follow Him, serve Him; and may we be loyal both to Him so that on the day of judgement we may be found faithful to thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.