Saturday, November 20, 2010

A prayer before Advent

STIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

This prayer is based on Jeremiah xxiii. 5. and S. JOHN vi. 5.
This, as we now have it, is the Collect of a transition Sunday. We owe this to our Reformers, who, by skilfully altering “The fruit of the Divine work” into “The fruit of good works,” and by introducing the “plenteous reward,” have made it clear that they at least intended us to regard Advent as the consummation of the Christian life. All our Trinity Seasons of growth in good works are to be tested at the Final Advent, and there shall be a plenteous reward for those who have been God’s faithful people in the final “Well done, good and faithful servants.” This thought was lacking in the ancient service books, which, as has been said, regarded this Sunday as wholly of Advent and prayed only for greater grace.
There is still, however, no less obvious reference than previously to the Advent subject, and indirectly also to the Epistle and Gospel. These have taught us that the promise of the First Advent given as in the Epistle was completely fulfilled as recorded in the Gospel. The First Advent is the pledge of the Second Advent. We, therefore, pray in view of that solemn event :—
     A.   For Quickened Wills.
The will is the man, and God will not force the will lest He destroy in us this very image of Himself. We. pray, therefore, that He would stir and rouse our wills into free action, by His Spirit, by His promises, and especially by His promise of the second coming of Christ (cf. Hebrews x. 24, 25).
     B.   For Greater Fruitfulness.
Our fruitfulness is indeed, according to the ancient Collect, “The fruit of the Divine action,” but it is none the less ours, for it depends upon our wills to allow the seed of grace room to grow and bear fruit in the garden of our hearts, lives, characters, and dispositions.
     C.   For the Final Reward.
The reward will be according to our works, and plenteous fruitfulness shall be plenteously rewarded, but the will, the fruit, and the reward are all “Through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  -Rev. P. M. Scott, D.D.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Meditaion on Minor Propers Jer 29:1, 4-14 & Titus 3:1-8. 23rd Sunday in Trinitytide

Remember the old folk hymn that was made popular years ago by Burl Ives? "I am a poor wayfaring stranger, Just passing through this world below ..."
Well, that's the background to today's readings. Jeremiah is writing to a captive people. They've been taken away from their true home and forced to live in exile in a strange land.
St. Paul has similar thoughts as he writes to the Church. He had often said things about our being strangers and pilgrims, with our citizenship in heaven. Both readings start from the same assumption: that we are not really where we belong, but that we are where God has put us for now. Against that background, Jeremiah and Paul give us strikingly similar advice as to how we are to behave in this strange land.
"Build ye houses," says Jeremiah, "and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.

You're going to be here for quite a while. Settle in, and, even though this isn't permanent, be the best citizens you can be, and, in doing so, be an influence toward God's ways
And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.
We are strangers, but we are not rebels. We seek to build, not to destroy. We seek peace, not endless strife.

St. Paul tells us to
"... be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,"
It is hard to remember in a world that proclaims government of the people, by the people, and for the people, that it is not the job of a Christian people
to rule, but rather to serve, and it is not rights we seek, but God's will in our own lives, and the spreading of God's Word and His love by the way we live our lives.
St. Paul continues, challenging us:
"To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men."

Does this sound like the way politics is being done in our land in the name of Christ? Or is it so that we have opposing camps, each claiming to be advancing Christian principles, and yet hurling invective, calling names,
making accusations, shouting in anger? Isn't that a good description of current politics? As a matter of fact, it sounds like church politics too. We Anglicans seem not able to stop shouting at each other. Where is the gentleness and meekness that the Apostle is calling for? Certainly there is right and there is wrong, but there is a right way and a wrong way to promote truth. If the spreading of truth is done in such a way that we are biting and devouring one another, have we perhaps used truth to promote a lie?
"For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy,
hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, "
Our Lord has offered us forgiveness, and calls upon us to forgive. He offers us mercy, and requires us to show mercy.
He is patient and longsuffering with us, for which we should be very thankful indeed, and expects us to be patient.
We believe truth, but we need also to live the truth. As St. Paul; said,
"This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men."
And, if we will hear Him, and do all that we are able to follow Him, and tearfully repent when we fail Him, then we can claim the words of Jeremiah:
"Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive."

Let us pray.
Almighty God, who alone gavest us the breath of life, and alone canst keep alive in us the holy desires thou dost impart; We beseech thee, for thy compassion's sake, to sanctify all our thoughts and endeavours; that we may neither begin an action without a pure intention nor continue it without thy blessing. And grant that, having thre eyes of the mind opened to behold things invisihble and unseen, we may in heart be inspired by thy wisdom, and in work be upheld by thy strength, and in the end be accepted of thee as thy faithful servants; through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

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