THE REVEREND CANON STANLEY SINCLAIR

SERMON FOR EPIPHANY II 2021

Mary knew that her son—the One whom she shared with the Heavenly Father- was equal to the challenge. So, before the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee became a complete and unforgettable shambles, she simply said, “They have no wine.” Clearly, it was not just an observation, but the trusting appeal from one who had no doubt of the abilities of Jesus.

The Lord’s reply was a gentle rebuke, “My hour has not yet come.” But the future Saviour of mankind was also a loving son, who cares for all of humanity in their hour of need. And a wedding feast in that culture without a celebratory glass of wine was unthinkable. And so Jesus proves at the very beginning of his adult years his great compassion for the plight of ordinary human beings.

This is so well set forth in the spirit of Saint Paul’s sermon. He addresses us on the subject of “the grace that is given to us,” reminding us of our dependence upon the gifts which we receive from God, Whose fatherly love is our greatest resource.

In one sentence the Apostle has reminded us of the riches of God’s grace, and that He bestows on us all the virtues and abilities we possess. No wonder he lays out for us a pattern of behaviour, because he knows that—thanks to our Heavenly Father—we can live out our days in an honourable and useful fashion. What we cannot do is to take the credit, because without God’s help this would not be possible.

That means we cannot “blow our own trumpet” and pretend that our good qualities and our talents are of our own making, but realise how God has created us—not just our very existence, but the fullness of our nature. Then, still supporting us by the Holy Spirit, He turns over to us the task of using our gifts in a responsible and creative manner. As our Father He is more generous than He is demanding; but Saint Paul has laid out clearly for us the pattern of living which God has designed to make our stay on earth an honourable and useful one.

The Apostle begins his lesson with a call for us to use what the Lord has provided to us in the way of basic intelligence and talent for the jobs that He has given us to do. As our Heavenly Father He does not simply order us about, but in his divine love He makes it all possible. But we still possess free will: so now, never without his help, He turns it over to us.

The task, as Saint Paul lays it out for us, is not easy, and yet all it takes is our will, because our Heavenly Father will give us the strength we need. Living the Christian life demands the best of us, but once again, we do not face the task on our own; but like every good Father to every child—and who are we all but children in his eyes?—He offers his constant encouragement and help in our spiritual and moral development. Who among us, even at an advanced age, can view ourselves as anything more than little children? In fact the longer we live, the surer we can be of our personal limitations and our need for guidance and grace.

The pattern set out for us is not impossible, because of the grace that goes with it. But it is only possible because we are not alone; we are not dependent simply on our own devices. In fact the more we try to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, as the old saying goes, the more difficult it all becomes. In heaven, no doubt, there is a certain amount of laughter at our human attempts to “do it yourself,” considering the often amusing results; although they can also be tragic, when willfulness and pride take over, in a futile attempt on our part to be the masters of our own destiny.

Just consider the list Saint Paul has laid out for us: he has set forth the requirements of the Christian life:

Give with simplicity;

Show mercy with warmth;

Hold on to everything that is holy and good.

Show brotherly love by always helping others.

Be hard-working, devout, a servant of Christ, constantly praying and giving to others, blessing them, rejoicing with them, and weeping with them, with an understanding heart and mind..

And stay humble.

That is a quick summary of what Saint Paul has called upon us to do. And I doubt that any Christian desires to do anything else. It’s just that when we try to do it on our own strength, we are bound to fail.

But when we constantly turn to Him for help, what a difference that can make! God is not asking us to do more than He has equipped us to do. Not that our living of the Christian life will ever be perfect, but that it will be an honest attempt to serve our Heavenly Father by simple human kindness and generosity.

Will we do so with complete perfection? Not very likely; that is, especially if we do it on our own. But that is not necessary.

We have come a long way since Saint Mary spoke to her son at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. But we in Canada, and all over the world, still know that we can depend upon Christ in our every hour of need, if we will only do what Mary did.

O Heavenly Father, may we, like Blessed Mary, the Mother of our Lord, put our complete trust in thy Son, and so enabled by his grace, serve Thee day by day, to thine honour and glory. Amen.

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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.