Verse of the Day

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Second Sunday in Lent

The Propers for today are found on Page 127-128, with the Collect first:

The Second Sunday in Lent.
The Collect.

LMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And due to the rubric, the Collect for the Day is followed by the Collect for Ash Wednesday, which is found on Page 124:

The first day of Lent, commonly called
Ash Wednesday.
The Collect.

LMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be said every day in Lent, after the Collect appointed for the day, until Palm Sunday.

Ryan Hopkins read the Epistle for today, which came from  the Fourth Chapter of Paul’s First letter to the Thessalonians beginning at the First Verse.  Apparently the Corinthians were not the only church founded in a Red Light District.  In this letter Paul is telling the people to refrain from random sex and get married.  Paul is starting into the beginning of his New Man concept.  We are called to be as God wants us to be, not as we would be without His guidance and help.  God does this, not that we would miss fun, but rather that we would enjoy happiness.

E beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit.

Deacon Striker Jack Arnold read this morning’s Gospel which comes from the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the Fifteenth Chapter, beginning  at the Twenty-First Verse.

ESUS went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

This story surfaces again in the Book of Common Prayer in the Prayer of Humble Access, on page 82:

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 our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

Sermon – Time and Action
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above. 

 Consider these words from the Collect:

… we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul …

In the Collect, we acknowledge to God that if we listen to our “inner self” we are without guidance.  Consider the airplane flying, it orders its movements according to Polaris, the Pole Star of True North.  If a pilot flies guided by his “inner self” he soon knows only where he is, at the controls, and little else.  Like the pilot, we need God’s guidance to move towards our goal of eternal life with Him.  It should also be noted that our life here will be a lot more pleasant if we stay on course.

Thus, when Paul tell us to keep our bodies under control of our minds and our minds to be guided by God only, he helps move us on course.  We are to be true and honest in all our dealings, both physical and fiscal and to live our faith.

Matthew gives us a fine example of faith that demonstrates how we must be guided by our faith in our Lord.  The woman who cries unto Jesus is a Gentile, just like us.  Just like us she longs for His Mercy.  In her case, she asks only for the mercy rejected by others, the crumbs of the Master’s Table.  This is the essence of our faith, we are not worth to dine at His Table, no more than dogs are meet to dine at our table.  Yet, what is left over is more than enough for us.  And, even more important, Jesus offers to share His Table with us.  He is not content for us to grovel for his crumbs.

Recognize how poorly you will do with your guidance, accept His Guidance, stay on course and accept the fruits of that action.

Bishop Dennis Campbell’s Sunday Sermon
As is oft the case, we are honored to present Bishop Dennis’ Sunday sermon presented to his parish.  Dennis has an excellent command of scripture and is able to present it in a manner which is completely understandable to the rest of us.  This year’s sermons are being drawn from the book of Psalms, or, as it is known by Anglicans, "The Psalter" which begins on page 343 of the Book of Common Prayer.  But, today he moved to drawing the propers together in a far different sermon than Hap’s and adding in the psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 86.  We think you will really enjoy it!

God Our Saviour
I Thessalonians 4:1-8, Matthew 15:21-28, Psalm 86
Second Sunday in Lent
4 March 2012

lessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.[1]
Psalm 86. Inclina, Domine.

OW down thine ear, O Lord, and hear me; * for I am poor, and in misery.
2 Preserve thou my soul, for I am holy: * my God, save thy servant that putteth his trust in thee.
3 Be merciful unto me, O Lord; * for I will call daily upon thee.
4 Comfort the soul of thy servant; * for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5 For thou, Lord, art good and gracious, * and of great mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
6 Give ear, Lord, unto my prayer, * and ponder the voice of my humble desires.
7 In the time of my trouble I will call upon thee; * for thou hearest me.
8 Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; * there is not one that can do as thou doest.
9 All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship thee, O Lord; * and shall glorify thy Name.
10 For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: * thou art God alone.
11 Teach me thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in thy truth: * O knit my heart unto thee, that I may fear thy Name.
12 I will thank thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart; * and will praise thy Name for evermore.
13 For great is thy mercy toward me; * and thou hast delivered my soul from the nethermost hell.
14 O God, the proud are risen against me; * and the congregations of violent men have sought after my soul, and have not set thee before their eyes.
15 But thou, O Lord God, art full of compassion and mercy, * long-suffering, plenteous in goodness and truth.
16 O turn thee then unto me, and have mercy upon me; * give thy strength unto thy servant, and help the son of thine handmaid.
17 Show some token upon me for good; that they who hate me may see it, and be ashamed, * because thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me.

As we begin and close each day in Morning and Evening Prayer, we pray the Lord's Prayer as He Himself taught us to do.  And in this prayer are the important words, "deliver us from evil." The Bible readings for this morning show God answering that prayer.  The passages were chosen to teach us to continually look to God as our Deliverer.  The Collect for today, a prayer that has been said by the people of God for more than 1600 years, asks God to "keep us, both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities."  "Keep" here means to defend us, to protect us, or to deliver us.  To put this in a New Testament term, it asks and trusts God to save us, and the real point we are trying to make today is, God is our Saviour.

1 Thessalonians 4 encourages us to avoid the sins of the flesh, which are far more deadly than any disease or injury to the body.  Asking God to keep us outwardly in our bodies is, at least in part, to request Him to keep our fleshly desires under control so we will possess our "vessels," our bodies, in "sanctification and honour" rather than in "the lust of concupiscence."  Matthew 15:21-28 shows Christ delivering the soul from the attacks and oppression of the devil as He casts the demon out of the woman's daughter.

Psalm 86 continues this theme.  Here the Old Testament Israel is threatened by enemies.  It usually was, wasn't it?  It was not easy for Israel to survive, let alone live in peace.  There were always enemies around.  Sometimes they were the small Canaanite tribes, sometimes they were the large empires of the Mediterranean area, and, of course, there was the constant presence of temptation and sin. There were always enemies, just like today.  I think one the worst of the contemporary heresies is the one that teaches that being a Christian and "walking in the center of God's will" means we will not have to fight the good fight as those before us have done.  We will not face enemies, or persecution, or financial problems, or spiritual depression, or have to fight to subdue our own fleshly desires and weaknesses to the will of God.  Rather than having to fight the good fight we will be "carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease" because God is going to work miracles for us to make us rich and healthy and live lives of ease and indulgence.  In reality, God doesn't usually work that way.  Rather than saving us from the fight, He usually saves us through the fight.  That's why Isaac Watts' famous hymn I quoted a few moments ago also says,

Sure I must fight if I would reign:
Increase my courage Lord:
I'll bear the cross, endure the pain,
Supported by thy word.

It is why Paul said in Timothy 6:12, which we read as part of evening prayer last night, "fight the good fight."

Psalm 86 expresses our absolute dependence on God.  It is He who wins the battle.  I think it is important for us to see that David did not mean to give the impression that he was righteous, therefore God owed him protection and deliverance.  When he says, "Preserve thou my soul, for I am holy" (vs. 2), he is not bragging about his own righteousness.  David was very much aware of his own sin and unworthiness before God.  "I acknowledge my faults, and my sin is ever before me," he wrote in the second verse of Psalm 51.  He knew his only hope to escape the penalty of his sin was God's forgiveness, and he knew his only hope for becoming righteous was to be cleansed from sin by God.  Thus he wrote, "Wash me throughly from my wickedness, and cleanse me from my sin" (Ps. 51:2).  So David is not saying here, "God I am righteous, therefore You owe me the reward of saving me from my enemies."  He is saying, "I am consecrated to You.  I belong to you.  I am set aside and reserved for Your service.  And I know I am completely dependent upon Your grace.  Therefore, please be my Help and Saviour in this uncertain and troubled world, and in the world to come."

David can ask God's help because he knows something about God.  David knows God is a God of grandeur and compassion.
 Look at what he wrote in verses 8-10.

"Among all the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; there is not one that can do as thou doest."

All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship thee , O Lord; and shall glorify thy Name.

For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone."

Here is what this Psalm is saying.  God of Israel, You are the Lord.  You are the creator and owner of all things.  Your works are wondrous and miraculous.  If the imaginary gods of the pagans existed, they would still be immeasurably inferior to You.  You are the only God, and the only Being worthy to be called "God."  All people owe You loving worship and obedience. You are also kind and generous. You condescend to hear our prayers.  You are perfect in Your goodness, magnificent in Your gracious dealings with fallen humanity, unbounded in the mercy You give freely to all who call upon You, and the Saviour of those who put their trust in thee.

Because David knows this about God he will lift up his soul in prayer and call daily upon the God of his salvation.  Can we do less?  Will not the God who heard the prayers of David also hear our prayers?  Will not the One who kept Israel by His grace also keep us if we put our trust in Him?  Will not the One who delivered the soul of David from the nethermost hell also save our souls from everlasting damnation if we call upon Him in faith?

There is something very important in that last statement.  It is based on verse 13 and it reminds us that our greatest enemy is our sin and our greatest need is to be delivered from its penalty, hell.  It profits us nothing if God showers us with material things in this life, but allows our souls to fall into hell forever.  Conversely, those whose sins are forgiven and whose souls are bound for the Mansions of Heaven are rich already, even if they are persecuted, hungry, and homeless in this world.  Yet we are powerless to save ourselves from our enemy or its consequences.  God alone can save, and He has accomplished our salvation in the redeeming work of Christ.

Let us pray.

LMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

+Dennis Campbell

Bishop, Anglican Orthodox Church Diocese of Virginia
Rector, Holy Trinity Anglican Orthodox Church
Powhatan, Virginia

[1] Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent, BCP Page 92

No comments: