The Collect

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve; Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

Very early in the Christian Church, she being led by the Spirit of God, discovered a very practical truth. We can call it the “law of the liturgy” or the “law of Christian worship.” Simply stated the law is this… “How you pray determines what you will believe. And what you believe determines how you will live.”  This is the reason why the Church has always had at its center the Lord’s Prayer. It is also why we pray the same prayers that our forefathers prayed. These prayers are powerful. They teach. They form us in correct beliefs and practices. They show us how to live. If we change them, disregard them, or ignore them…we will be changing, disregarding and ignoring the faith that our Lord Jesus and his Apostles taught.

The Collect for this morning teaches us that God is ALMIGHTY AND EVERLASTING.

We are taught that HE is always…always more ready to hear than we are to pray…because our hearts become cold, distracted and fickle. We also learn that he is willing to give us more than either we desire or deserve. Our desire for the great things of God is not too strong but too weak…and it is often reflected in how and what we desire. We often make 5, 10, or 15 year plans in our personal or professional lives. We set goals. We sacrifice and work hard to achieve them. What are the goals of your spiritual life? To become more disciplined prayer. To adopt a traditional devotion tested and approved by the Church. To pray well at least 1 hour a day? To make Holy Communion at least 52 times a year? To overcome some besetting sin. To correct some glaring character flaw of which we are ashamed? What is the great aim? It is to please God and to worthily magnify his name. To live in such a way that no one will be mistaken as to where our allegiance lies. To Know God. To Love Him. To win the eternal crown…through caring for the physical needs of others. By feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked brother, to give shelter to the homeless brother, to visit the sick or imprisoned brother, to ensure the dignified burial of Christian brethren. Or by devoting yourself to the spiritual needs of others…by instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, admonishing sinners, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving others willingly, comforting the afflicted, and praying for the living and the dead. Always bearing in mind the words of St. Paul, “For we all must appear before the Judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”  Oh, our dear Lord Jesus has so much to give us…more than we could ever desire or deserve!

The Epistle: 2 Corinthians 3:4

“Such trust we have through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God…”

St. Paul knew the fear of the Lord. He knew that Apostolic Ministry was not rooted in himself. The Minister is powerless, in and of himself to do anything for the sake of God or the good of the Church. So the Minister must be humbled in the dust quite often so that he never forgets that he is an ambassador for Christ…and not as an ambassador for his own plans, purposes, or projects. Here, God Alone must reign. And when God does, when his minister is sufficiently humble and God’s people respond with a good will and a good heart…something marvelous happens. As the members of the Church we become living epistles, hand-written letters of commendation, written by the Spirit of God that bear witness to the truth of the Gospel of God’s grace. We become living proof of the existence, plan and purpose of God. You are the proof and testimony of the gospel ministry which God has entrusted his ministers. Listen to how St. Paul puts it to the Corinthians, “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered to by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God; not on tablets of stone, but on the tablet of the human heart.” Who is sufficient for these things? No one. Our sufficiency comes from the Great God and Saviour whom we trust and obey. Certainly, he gives us more than we either we desire or deserve. Therefore, let us press on in the midst of so many dangers and toils. For our work and our prayers are not in vain. Let us set our hearts to love him more and worship him more acceptably. We all get into ruts. It has been especially easy to fall into them over the past five months…with everything that has been swirling about…If any one of you desires help and counsel on opening up the rich store house of Christian Prayer, please just ask. Simply say, Fr. Shannon I would like to know how to pray. Or “How can I pray better?” And we will get together and talk more about it face to face.

The Gospel: St. Mark vii. 35

“And straightway his ears were opened , and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.

In the Gospel lesson, our Lord heals a man who is deaf and mute. We should always remember that physical ailments in the gospel are also always pointing to a deeper reality. A person can be physically deaf…but they can also be spiritually deaf. Deaf to God, his teaching, the gospel and the commandments. A person can also be physically mute or speak in a halting way…but they can also be spiritually mute not be able to speak about the things of God or praise him freely.  This is captured in Charles Wesley’s Hymn, O for a thousand tongues to sing.

Hear him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb

Your loosened tongues employ;

Ye blind, behold your Saviour come

And leap, ye lame, for joy!

For all those with good will and a desire to love Christ, like the man in the gospel, he will take you aside from the multitude…all the distractions of the world…and he will teach you to hear his voice. He will heal your spiritual deafness and loosen you tongue so that you may live to praise and honour him. He is willing to grant you true joy that will cause you to forget about yourself. May he pour down upon us such an abundance of his mercy. Amen.+

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