A Study of the Collect for the Day
Tenth Sunday after Trinity
LET thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and, that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. (Psalms 66:18)
There is an interesting account in the life of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte at the zenith of his power. A distraught mother approached the military genius with a plea for mercy and pardon for her son. The Emperor responded that the young man had committed two separate offenses deserving death, and justice demanded the sentence to be carried out. “But it is not justice for which I ask” responded the distraught woman, “but it is mercy that I plead for my son.” “But your son does not deserve a grant of mercy!” Napoleon replied. “Sir,” she answered, “If my son deserved mercy, it would not be mercy, and mercy is all that I seek!” “Well, then,” replied the Emperor, “I shall grant mercy,” and he pardoned the woman’s son.
The Collect for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity makes a petition in two points: 1) that God open His ears of mercy in hearing our prayers, and 2) that the Holy Ghost will conform our hearts and desires to ask for those things only that are pleasing to God.
OPENING GOD’S EARS OF MERCY: Mercy is a powerful characteristic that gives birth to unmerited grace. It is worth noting that God’s ears are ‘merciful.’ This is not a casual description of God’s ‘ways’ but rather a magnification of a salient characteristic of God – His Ears are FULL of mercy to hear our prayers. Why do we need mercy? It is because justice would condemn us all to the fires of Hell. We do not become sinners at a certain time because we exercised our free will to sin – we are born sinners and are yoked with a nature that can do no good. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalms 51:5) The only so-called free will that we have is a will to sin. When we have been brought into a close relationship with Christ, our wills to do good are no longer ours, but His. Apart from the imputed righteousness of Christ, we continue as born sinners, and are sinners by our very natures inherited from the blood of Adam. So justice we must escape if we will live, and it is mercy and grace that is the only remedy for our sinfulness.
“LET thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants.” Is there anything that will stop those ears of mercy in being attendant to our prayers? The 18th verse of the 66th Psalm quoted above is one cause that God will not hear our prayers. If we are NOT humble servants, but rather have hearts populated by sinful thoughts (even thoughts that do not materialize in sinful actions) God will not hear our prayers. If the sinner’s free will rules in his heart, God has no reason to be merciful or to hear the prayer. Once our eyes and ears are open to God, His will be open to us. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. (John 9:31)
Even an obedient and humble child may petition the parent for some candy or sweet that is not wholesome for his health. The child knows not the food pyramid and the harm in neglecting it, so the parent knows better and will deny, at times, the innocent, but unhealthy, request of the child. God does so as well. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. (James 4:3) If we expect God to listen intently to our prayers, we must deport ourselves as sons and daughters belonging to a great King, and mindful of our familial responsibilities to that Sovereign Parent. If our hearts are to receive the abundance in blessings for which we plead, those hearts must not be brim-full of thoughts of iniquity or malice. They must be hearts empty of the world and full of the Spirit of God and His Mind. We dare not ask an urgent favor of one with whom we have had bitter quarrels, but we are very likely to run to the feet of one with whom we have long been friends –one whose mind is consistent with our own thinking. Why is this so? Because like minds are more generous to one another. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:16) Many good and honest men and women have resolved to be righteous, and with earnest intent; but they discover that their free wills cannot achieve righteousness. Before a moment passes they find themselves dogged by many sinful desires and words. If we will be righteous, we must rid our hearts of our human free wills, and take on the Mind that is in Christ to do HIS will and not our own sinful wills. Having that MIND will open the ears of mercy in Heaven to our prayers. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5)
ASKING FOR THOSE THINGS PLEASING UNTO GOD: What things may a child ask that is pleasing to a human parent? “Dad, I am having trouble with a bully at school. Will you give me some advice?” or, “Mom, many girls in the sixth grade wear make-up. They ridicule my plain appearance. How should I respond?” These are simple pleas for help in real problems that confront the child. The parent realizes the seriousness to the child of such problems and is pleased that the child came to the parent for help. The parent desires the same result as the child – the bullying to be dealt with, or the daughter to be equipped to deal with the wrong kind of peer pressure at school. The petition is a reasonable one seeking good results and not harmful ones. God is exactly like the parent in hearing the petitions of His children. He is pleased when we ask for those things that He is already inclined to grant even before our asking. The lectionary readings today reflect, in the Gospel of St Luke 19, the immeasurable mercy of Christ over Jerusalem as He wept over the city. He wanted so desperately to grant them mercy, but they had a different MIND and would have none of it. The problem with our prayers is that they are often too ME-centered. Give ME a promotion at work; give ME the new house I am seeking to acquire; give ME some stellar gift that sets me apart and above my fellows. These prayers ask things that are not pleasing to God to grant. But if we ask for those things that will bless God’s heart and are in conformity with His own Will, how rich and profound will be our blessing. What is that greatest blessing of being of one Mind with God? And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:7) We, too, must be willing and able to bear a cross of suffering for others as Christ has born for us: Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind (1 Peter 4:1) Which mind? The Mind of Christ. If ever you are confronted with an honest moment of doubt as to whether or not an action or thought is Godly, just imagine that Christ is standing right beside you (for He is). Does that thought change the context of doubt for you? Reader, are you a humble servant in your prayers? Do you seek to ask for those things only that you know to be pleasing to God? If you do not know that which is pleasing to God, then that forms the basis for another very Godly prayer, doesn’t it?
This Collect sets an excellent example of a prayer that God will love to hear. The petition is not for personal advantage but uttered from humility, and a sincere desire to ask only for those things pleasing to God. The wisdom inherent in such a prayer is this: that our minds be conformed to that of the Mind of Christ so that the things we ask are really those things which He is predisposed to grant and consistent with His favor.
“…..and I dwell in the House of the Lord Forever” Ps 23:6b
THE GOSPEL & SERMON
A NEW KIND OF KING
‘And when He was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; 38. Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. 39. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto Him. Master, rebuke Thy disciples. 40. And He answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. 41. And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, 42. Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44. And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. 45. And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; 46. Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. 47. And He taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief ofthe people sought to destroy Him, 48. And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.’ — Luke 19:37-48.
This trip to Jerusalem is the last in the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, but, in spite of His knowing of His coming Crucifixion, His will is steadfast and unflinching. He “went on before His disciples.” A good leader always leads his men and does not follow in the safety of the rear echelon.
Luke 9:51 says, “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem .”
This is a rare form of courage that is beyond our understanding.
In Luke’s account of this event, the emphasis is upon the Royalty and Kingship of Christ.
(I) The narrative brings into prominence Christ’s part in originating the triumphal entry (vs. 30-34). He sent for the colt with the obvious intention of stimulating the people to just such a demonstration as followed.
Notice the Lord’s own preparation and command of the events to follow: (Luke 19:30-36)
30 Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. 31 And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him. 32 And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. 33 And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? 34 And they said, The Lord hath need of him. 35 And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. 36 And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way
The nature of His dominion is as plainly taught by the humble pomp as is its reality.
A pauper King, who makes His public entrance into His city mounted on a borrowed ass, with His followers’ clothes for a saddle, attended by a shouting crowd of poor peasants, who for weapons or
banners had but the branches plucked from other people’s trees, was a new kind of king.
We do not need Matthew’s quotation of the prophet’s vision of the meek King coming to Zion on an ass, to understand the contrast of this kingdom with such a dominion as that of Rome, or of such princes as the Herods.
We see at the beginning of our text how the disciples and all the people began to praise Christ and welcome Him as King.
We witness a contrast here in the crowds of people: The Disciples proclaiming Him to be King, and the background filled with hostile spies.
This was unlike any of his actions before. He had previously downplayed his role as King of Kings, but now knows the time is near to proclaim it out of the mouths of babes and commoners.
(II) Look at this humble procession:
We have the humble procession with the shouting disciples and the background of hostile spies.
The disciples eagerly caught at the meaning of bringing the colt and threw themselves with alacrity into what seemed to them preparation for the public assertion of royalty, for which they had long been impatient.
Luke tells us that they lifted Jesus on to the seat which they hurriedly prepared, while some spread their garments in the way — the usual homage to a king:
How different the vision of the future in their minds and His! They dreamed of a throne; He knew it was a Cross. Round the southern shoulder of Olivet they came, and, as the long line of the Temple walls, glittering in the sunshine across the valley, burst on the view, and their approach could be seen from the city, they broke into loud acclamations, summoning, as it were, Jerusalem to welcome its King.
Let’s examine verse 39: And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto Him. Master, rebuke Thy disciples.
The Pharisees were not there to add anything to the celebration. They were there to undermine Christ. They still do so! The modern pulpits are filled with men who are willing to allow Christ to be mentioned, only, “please do not make so very much of Him.” They are always with us to deter us and prevent our full blossoming of Faith.
Does the Gospel depend, in any respect, on the effort of mere men? Not at all. Whatsoever the Lord decrees, it shall come to pass. If no man speaks the Word of Truth, then the very Stones will cry out!
41. And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it,
Why did Christ weep over Jerusalem? He saw the future of that city. 40 years later.
He saw the massed Roman Armies under Titus coming to encircle and to suffocate the City, He saw trenches dug about its perimeter and battlements erected against its walls.
He saw the starving children within her seiged walls, and the inhabitants eating their young for famine…..and ….He wept!
At the moment of His triumphal entry, we see Him plunged into utter sorrow for the people of Jerusalem. That sorrow is a sign of His real manhood, but it is also a part of His revelation of the very heart of God. The form is human, the substance divine.
The man weeps because God pities. Christ’s sorrow does not hinder His judgments. The woes which wring His heart will nevertheless be inflicted by Him. Judgment is His ‘strange work,’ alien from His desires; but it is His work.
The eyes which are as a flame of fire are filled with tears, but their glance burns up the evil. Note the yearning in the unfinished sentence, ‘If thou hadst known.’ Note the decisive closing of the time of repentance. Note the minute prophetic details of the siege, which, if ever they were spoken, are a distinct proof of His all-seeing eye. And from all let us fix in our hearts the conviction of the pity of the judge, and of the judgment by the pitying Christ.
45. And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; 46. Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.
I want each of you to imagine that this little church decided to abrogate our policy of not conducting fund-raising enterprises. Suppose that we held a bake sale or yard sale here in the yard of our church. Suppose many people were coming to buy our merchandise and we were looking at the hope of building a new edifice. “Except the Lord buildeth the house, they labor in vain that buildeth it.”Suppose a good man of the community comes without warrant or warning and begins to turn our money tables over and chase us off the property with a cane. How would we react?
But that is exactly what Christ does in the Temple. The Church is not our private property to raise ill-gotten money. It belongs to God! He will provide the resources for its building by the love of the people, not their merchandising. The Church is a House of Prayer and not merchandise. Let the other churches transgress His will, we shall not.
How was the reprimand of Christ received by the preachers of that community?
Read for yourselves: 47. And He taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy Him,
48. And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.’
Let us trust in the Lord for all our provision and we shall be well.