The Prayer of Collect
Fourth Sunday after Trinity
O GOD, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy, that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Romans viii. 18-23
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:18-23)
St. Luke vi. 36-42
36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. 37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. 39 And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? 40 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. 41 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 42 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. (Luke 6:36-42)
Much of what passes for authentic these days is synthetic and unreal, not only in the world, but in the Church as well. I am reminded of the words of an old theologians, Alexander MacLaren, who said: “I Have learned – I shall never unlearn – lessons, that after all, our sole power lies in true, simple, sincere, setting forth the living Christ, and I have abjured, forevermore, all the rubbish of “intellectual preaching.” I would rather serve out slops for people to live upon than lumps of stone cut into the FORM of loafs.”
In a world that places a very high premium upon achievement and performance, we are often misled, even by our clergy, to believe that our works are the means by which we are saved. The modern church emphasizes giving almost to the exclusion of all other considerations. The rich man, or woman, will be rewarded with honors and positions of responsibility even if their daily lives do not reflect that Spirit of which Christ spoke. Perhaps the poor widow that spends all of her available time in cooking for the sick and homeless will be forgotten in the perishable minds of men, but shall be more highly remembered and favored in the Infinite Mind of God. God gives us many hints of His Will to be fulfilled in Christ in the midst of the Old Testament. The people of Israel were living as they pleased and believing that all their sins were remitted by the sacrifices of the wealthy. But God counseled: For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6) The money-changers of the modern temple would have us persist in believing that we can BUY God’s favor while living as we please, but it was NEVER so. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. (Psalms 85:10) Mercy and truth are husband and wife – inseparable! If we will have mercy, we must accept truth with it. As Jesus told the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well, “. . . the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. (John 4:23) ‘Spirit’ is not emotionalism, but love of God and our fellow man. But our love must be directed in truth, for false worship is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord.
As we read in our biblically-oriented prayer of Collect, God is the protector of all who trust in Him. We can claim none of God’s protection apart from the measure of trust we place wholly in Him. Without God, we have no strength at all, and our righteousness is as filthy rags. Apart from God, there is no holiness to be had. We lean upon God for His increasing mercies in His Sovereign Rule over us, and to Guide us through the Wilderness of Sin of this present world. Only God can show us the safe and righteous way – we cannot find it alone. In avoiding those things that worldly, we are amassing to ourselves those treasures that are heavenly. These are the Godly petitions we repeated from today’s prayer of Collect.
In our Epistle for today, taken from Romans 8, we discover that there is groaning of the mortal soul that is inclined to the Holiness of God. Such a struggle and groaning is forever present with us until the curtain of time is lifted and time shall be no more. It is not a sorrowful groaning, but an intense desire to see God’s will worked out on earth as it is in Heaven according to that prayer the Lord taught us to say. When sorrow and misery befalls the stranger to God, hope is forlorn and there is no brilliant Light upon which he may fix his eyes from the darkness that engulfs his wretched soul. But the child of God embraces the Light even more earnestly as the dark circle surrounds him, or a loved one. He knows, innately, that the Light is his destination and not the dark fires of Hell that seem to presently surround him. “. . . . weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5b)
Our Gospel text calls us to a higher standard of life and Spirit than a rigid adherence to the law can afford. If perfect obedience were possible, there would be no need of mercy; but we can never be perfect keepers of the Law of God, therefore, we must have mercy if we are to be accounted blameless and righteous in entering the Kingdom of Heaven.
Consider the great pardon and mercy shown to us through the substitutionary death of Christ! He suffered that we might forego the eternity of Hell. We should rightfully be punished for our life of sin, yet Christ died in our stead that we, accepting His Lordship, might be pardoned and forgiven. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. This is a mighty admonition to us, for we can never be as merciful as God has been toward us. But God would have us to take on the very nature of mercy in our dealings with others. Though a child can seldom match the understanding of his father or mother, he will nonetheless mimic the nature he sees in his parents. That is what God desires of His children today.
37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven So many good Christians misunderstand this to mean that Christian judgment is forbidden. Nothing could be further from the truth. The meaning to us is this: We should not judge with our personal judgments, but with the righteous judgment of God as evidenced in His Word. Jesus Christ gives us commandment that is clear: Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. (John 7:24) We are not only to judge from the heart, but also judge only by the measure of God’s judgment and not our own. If God has declared a certain behavior sin, that is not OUR judgment, but God’s. Simply declaring God’s condemnation of a sin is not our PERSONAL judgment, but HIS! Remember the debtor to the king whose great debt was forgiven by the king and, who, after went out and took a man by the throat who owed him a small sum, threatening to sell his wife and family into slavery? He was forgiven a fortune, but refused to forgive his own servant a small debt. How merciless was he! Are we not the same? The King of Glory has forgiven us an enormous debt, and a multitude of debts, yet we refuse to forgive those who offend us in the slightest measure.
38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. It is not possible to give more than God has given, for He immediately replenishes our bottles of oil the moment we pour out our blessings to others. There are blessings that cannot be measured in simple terms of a piece of bread for a piece of bread. Our giving of bread to the poor is multiplied in return value a thousand times. Our souls have rest and a good conscience thereby. Peace of mind is a possession not enjoyed by the greedy.
Can the blind lead the blind? Of course they can! It is happening in 90% of America’s churches today. Ministers, blind to the love and Spirit of God, are leading their blind disciples ever nearer the gaping abyss that awaits all who do not hear with clarity the voice of God. 39 And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? This is a parable of Jesus that has profoundly present implications. Our seminaries have been turned from a concentrated focus on the Word of God to an obsession with church growth, conflict resolution, seeker friendly programs, and, yes, MONEY schemes! If the lay Christian is NOTR blind (informed deeply by the Word of God) it is not likely that he can be led by the nose by a blind guide.
Do you know that there are theologians today who believe that they are better informed of God’s Will than Jesus Christ? It is true. There are those among the despicable movement called “Higher Critics” who believe that textual analysis and archeological digs have revealed to them information that Jesus did not have while on his earthly ministry. They obviously discredit Christ as the Son of the Living God, and God Himself! Their new bibles attempt to alter the evidence to support their intentional errors. 40 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. I once disputed with a local minister who claimed that speaking in tongues (nonsensical babbling) was required for salvation. We argued the issue endlessly. Finally, I asked, “Is Jesus Christ our perfect example in all things?” Of course, the minister answered in the affirmative to which I followed up, “Do we have any evidence of Jesus EVER speaking in an ecstatic and incomprehensible tongue?” The man REFUSED to answer. If we will have perfect religion, and undefiled, let us be as much like Christ as our earthen vessels will afford.
How many clergymen preach against the sins of lying, stealing, adultery, etc., and harbor those sins in the dark chambers of their own hearts? Of course these sins are condemned by God; however, we must not judge others by a stronger measure than we apply to our own conduct. If we criticize the housekeeping of a neighbor, let us first sweep the trash and filth from our own floors. 41 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 42 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.
If we are to have authority as men and women of God, we must see that we follow Christ in love and truth. We not only pronounce the truth of God’s Word to others, but we must make that truth the rule of our own lives. Owning the Spirit of Love and Truth, we shall walk the Valleys and Mountains with our eyes open to the presence and company of God.