The Collect.

O GOD, who declares thy almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity; Mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we, running the way of thy commandments, may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Grace…what is God’s grace? It is something so great that human words fail. So, we try like little children to understand. Honestly, I think that Grace can only be understood by its effects in the soul. “Do I really believe that God IS, that he exists?  Do I love God? Do I have grace in my soul? Do I have a firm foundation for my hope that I may obtain his gracious promises and be made a partaker of his heavenly treasure? How do I know?” Let us ask ourselves this question… “Do I obey the commandments?” If you know the Freedom that obedience to God gives, then you know that God exists, grace exists and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. Grace…God’s showing mercy and pity, are revealed through His people who run the way of his commandments. This reflects Jesus’ teaching:

“…if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” and “If ye love me, keep my commandments. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me”. “Follow me,” says the Lord. “Repent and believe.”

When the Lord’s commandments are obeyed, it shows that the life of God is in the soul of man. So, grace is not about feelings. The feeling of a guilt free conscience. The feelings of comfort and joy. These may come, but only after obedience and they are to meant to inspire a more steadfast obedience in the heart. Feelings are like little pools of refreshment along the way. They come when God desires to send them to us. If they do not come, we press on…trusting him to give us what we need. Divine grace strengthens our spirit, our soul, so that we may OBEY the commandments of the Lord. Obedience to God is the whole duty of man. It is the beginning, middle and end of our walk with Christ. As the hymn says, “Trust and obey for there is no other way…”…but it takes great humility and self-knowledge to understand this.

The Epistle. I Corinthians 15:1-11.

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received…”

In the epistle this morning, St. Paul is teaching the Corinthians the true doctrine of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But there is an interesting phrase that he uses that I would like for us NOTE WELL this morning. He writes,

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received…”

He wanted the Corinthians to know that what he is passing on to them is something that he received. He did not make it up himself, but received it from the Lord Jesus and is obediently passing it along to them. The Church and her ministers are only allowed to believe, teach and obey what has been received from Christ and His Apostles. This is what makes the Church truly Catholic, universal, steadfast and constant through the centuries. And it is grounded in humble obedience. The faith of the Holy Apostles, Prophets and Martyrs is the Faith which we must believe and obey today…and we must faithfully pass it on to our children so that they may believe and obey tomorrow. There is One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of us all. Any temptation or pressure to change this in Doctrine or Discipline must be firmly resisted. 

To show this more clearly, NOTE WELL these other words from the Apostle Paul:

Concerning the Holy Communion he writes:

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed, took Bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you; Do this in remembrance of me…”

Concerning the great need for everyone to firmly hold to the traditions of the Church he writes:

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”

To do these things, takes great obedience and faithfulness on the part of all the members of the Church.

The Gospel. St. Luke 18:9-14.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of “God be merciful unto me a sinner.”

Finally, we come to the gospel. The proud Pharisee and the Humble tax collector. One is very religious, knowledgeable, and devoted to keeping the traditions of the Law of Moses. As we saw earlier, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being religious, profoundly knowledgeable, or zealously guarding tradition. The fault of the Pharisee was his inordinate pride and arrogancy in doing so. Heaping upon others, laws and commandments and traditions that he failed to keep himself. Woe, unto ministers and Congregations who do likewise. Jesus, commends the tax collector, the sinner, the swindling unpatriotic traitor, who, by grace, finally understood his condition before God. Before God we are all beggars. The beginning, middle and end of our walk with Christ should be accompanied by the sincere prayer, “God be merciful unto me a sinner.” Here we see the Pharisee contrasted with the Tax Collector. But what if, God were to break a Pharisee, with all his misguided religious knowledge, devotion and zeal. What if God were to make a Pharisee into a humble follower of Christ? Well, he did. His name was Saul of Tarsus and you and I know him as St. Paul. The one who said, in this morning’s reading, “For I am least of the apostles…because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the GRACE of God, I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all.”  

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