The Prayer of Collect
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.
O ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who didst give to thine Apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach thy Word; Grant, we beseech thee, unto thy Church, to love that Word which he believed, and both to preach and receive the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
24 “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. 25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. 27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. 28 Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. 29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; 30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:24-30)
It is often said, and I believe it to be true, that there is greater strife in the House of God than in the local cocktail lounge. There is constantly a struggle of the spirit of man against his neighbor who seems to be getting above him in the offices and functions of the Church. A far greater number of churches in our day have split up over the interior décor of the Church than over more serious matters of doctrine and practice. It is in the nature of man (and unfortunately in the Christian as well) to assert SELF over his fellows. We must constantly strive to put our selfish pride and interest beneath those of the greater Church and people – especially so if we are ministers of God. Paul strove constantly to subdue his own desires for the greater good: “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Cor 9:27) Paul tells us that it is possible for the preacher to preach, and not abide by his own words. “18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:18-19)
Now, unless we ministers and laity are far better than Paul, we must admit that we often strive for those things that bring shame upon ourselves, the Church, and the ministry itself. We take umbrage at trifles and let the weightier matters go unaddressed. We argue and complain because we are not admired and respected enough by inferiors, or even superiors. We desire the uppermost seats in the fellowship of the Church and to be addressed with deference. I am a bishop by the calling of God. I am by no means worthy to be called a bishop, but God has called me; and that to which God calls us, He will make us worthy to perform. It matters not to me if others call me bishop. It is enough for me that I can be called a brother in Christ by those who know me. I deserve no higher honor among the brethren than that which they recognize. We are all in that category whether vestryman, committee member, treasurer, grounds keeper, or whatever. We are all One in Christ Jesus and no lines of trivial authority can divide us as being One in Him. Certainly, our positions as teachers and preachers of the Word are vitally important, but that calling is important because of the Word Itself and not because of any personal merit in our own souls.
Let us observe how Jesus handled this strife that came among His disciples: “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.” If there was unbounded strife among the disciples of Christ, surely there must be the same in our midst to a greater or lesser extent (depending on our sanctification in Christ). It is important to remember that, if we are One in Christ, we shall be One with each other. Strife’s and differences disappear when we all share that same faith in Christ. But the disciples are concerned with SELF! Jesus addresses the matter as a serious one.
“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.” Yes, the world loves titles, power, and pelf, but not so with God. The princes of old loved to be called ‘benefactors of the poor’ and so do many who perform works of charity in our day. It is the invisible had that gives which is rewarded in heaven and not the one which is clad in scarlet silk. In the time of the Reformation, clergy were not addressed as “Father” or ‘Reverend” but as Mister So-and-so. The point was to remind those of us in the ministry that we are not above the flock of which we are only under-shepherds and not the Good Shepherd. “But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.” No, we shall not hold rank or title above the people to whom we are supposed to be servant unless it be “SERVANT.” The chief among us should be willing to do his part in cleaning the floors, emptying the trash, and doing all such chores for which he may have the time. Often, it is an utter necessity. For fifteen years, I was forced to serve – not only as bishop and priest at St. Andrews, but also as janitor, secretary, and babysitter. I wish I had done so willingly, but there was no choice. I grew into the position of janitor and came to like it. The young people also saw when I was working to clean the church and they chipped in and wound up doing most of the work – VOLUNTARILY. I love them! If we put ourselves down, and others up, we will find that we, too, may GROW into the role.
A great Anglican priest and poet of the 17th century wrote a series of tracts to clergy on how they should treat their flock. Mr. Herbert was noted for his humility and love for the brethren. I quote the introduction to his book below:
“I, BEING desirous, through the mercy of God, to please him, for whom I am and live, and who giveth me my desires and per formances ; and considering with myself that the way to please him is to feed my flock diligently and faithfully, since our Saviour hath made that the argument of a pastor s love ; I have resolved to set down the form and character of a true pastor, that I may have a mark to aim at ; which also I will set as high as I can, since he shoots higher that threatens the moon, than he that aims at a tree. Not that I think, if a man do not all which is here expressed, he presently sins, and displeases God ; but that it is a good strife to go as far as we can in pleasing of him, who hath done so much for us. The Lord prosper the intention to myself and others, who may not despise my poor labours, but add to those points, which I have observed, until the book grow to a complete pastoral.” GEORGE HERBERT.
“For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.” Jesus came among His disciples as a servant. They SAT, and He SERVED. Which do you think the greater of the two? His entire ministry was one of sacrifice and humble teaching and preaching. He only took umbrage with one class of people – the proud ministers of His day (Scribes, Pharisees, and priests of the Temple). There are times when I believe that I have accomplished some great objective in preaching, but the Lord always brings my infantile understanding back to the truth of WHO He is and who I am. The contrast is stark to say the least. I pray always that I never attempt to exalt myself above those to whom God has given me to teach. If we believe we are brother, sister, mother, or father to those in the family of God, how dare we place our own interest above any of them, or feel better or more holy? Jesus makes this very clear.
In all our works of piety and humility, do we believe God is unseeing? He watches and knows all. He sees our secret acts of mercy, but disregards our public show of the same. “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations.” He knows that His disciples have followed close on for the years of His ministry. But He does not desire them to take that as a source of pride, but of unbounded love. When we suffer for Christ, the more we keep it private, the more He notices. Jesus did give us a new Commandment that entails adherence to the other Ten: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35) Who do you suppose Christ is addressing with this new commandment? Was this addressed only to those who call themselves Christians? No, it is addressed to the clergy and laity alike with equal emphasis. We cannot scream at, or curse, someone who is at the center of our affection, can we? Love across the whole spectrum of the Church eliminates discord and disunion. If we are not loved, perhaps it is because we have not loved enough. Love is a magnet that draws love to itself. Have you known this?
Do you recall the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus?” The author of that hymn was a man named Joseph Scriven of Port Hope, Canada. He lost those he loved the most to tragedy and death and moved from Ireland to Canada to get away from the sad memories. There at Port Hope, he became known as the Good Samaritan of Port Hope. He chopped fire-wood, mended fences, and did general repair work for the widows and orphans of the city. He could not be hired for he did all of his work at no cost. The love he had shared with those he lost was transferred to those who needed it most while alive.
The reward of the saint is not in this worldly theater, but in the coming Kingdom – that Kingdom of which Christ is Lord and Sovereign. “And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” If we are to drink and eat at the Table of the Lord, we must serve the tables of the socially downcast or lowest member of the church – whether we are a pillar of the Church, a vestryman, or especially a clergyman. For all are One in Christ Jesus.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.