Skip to comments.On Fear: The Rev. Samuel Edwards' Sermon for the Second Sunday after Trinity
Posted on 06/10/2005 8:05:55 AM PDT by sionnsar
Have you ever thought about the difference between "fear" as the world knows it and what Christians would call "godly" fear? The Rev. Samuel Edwards of the Anglican Church of the Holy Comforter addresses this, among other things, in this sermonL
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.Truly, another remarkable sermon, and one I found to be most edifying.
In last weeks Epistle, we heard Saint John proclaim that there is no fear in love, for perfect love casteth out fear. Yet in this weeks collect we pray that God would make us to have a perpetual fear and love of [his] holy Name. What is going on here? Are we praying for two things that are impossible to have at the same time? Actually, no. In fact, we are praying for two things that it is essential to have at the same time.
Any confusion that might exist over the seeming conflict between what the collect asks for and what is taught in Holy Writ is rooted in a misunderstanding of what is the fear of God for which we pray. The fear that is cast out by perfect love is the fear of what the world can do to us, the fear for our own skins.
The fear of God, on the other hand, is an essential component of a godly life. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, says the proverb (Prov. 1:7, 9:10) and the Psalmist (Ps. 111:10) and the Preacher (Eccl. 12:13). The absence of the fear of the Lord, on the other hand, is seen throughout Scripture as the mark of a fool.
This kind of fear is sometimes expressed as reverence or awe, and is most notable for the moral effect it has on us. In a very real sense, the fear of God consists not so much in being in terror of God, but in being afraid of not living up to his standards, of displeasing him, or of grieving him. It is fear, not so much of what he might do to us, but of what our failure to please him might show us up to be it is the fear of being weighed in the balance and found wanting.
Most of us have experienced a variety of this fear on those occasions when we have been in the presence of people of great authority, especially those having obvious moral and spiritual integrity. At such times, even the most talkative tend to fall silent lest they say something unworthy of the occasion and the august presence resolving to speak only if spoken to and likely hoping to be overlooked. (There are occasions, though, where the opposite happens and they babble nonsense like Peter on the mount of Transfiguration.) I imagine it was like this being in the presence of George Washington or Robert E. Lee or Mother Teresa; I know it was like this being in the presence Bishop Michael Ramsey.
The fear of God produces in us the virtues of humility and temperance both of which, not incidentally, are virtues important to the maintenance of love, both between man and God and between man and man. When we have them, we are able both to receive love and to love rightly.
This brings us to the other thing for which we have prayed today, which is to have a perpetual love of [Gods] holy Name. This is really a prayer for the divine indwelling a prayer that we be so filled with Gods life that we reflect his character in the most complete way possible for a created being. There is no mystery about what this looks like: It is laid out for us in todays Epistle: Hereby we perceive the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. Again, we are reminded that this kind of love is not a matter of feeling, but of action.
Certainly, everyone wants to be loved this way by God and his neighbor, but we also have an obligation to love in this way ourselves, and that is where the problem comes for us. About this, John writes, But whoso hath this worlds good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth. In other words, if you have the means to meet your brothers need and decide that its just too much trouble, your claim to be living a godly life is just so much hot air. Talk is cheap: Walk the talk.
While we are endeavoring to do this, though, we are not supposed to be focused on ourselves: It is actually a contradiction of humility to be absorbed in the question, How am I doing? Yes, we are supposed to examine ourselves by the standard of genuine humanity that we see in Christ, but having done that, were supposed to get on with it and leave it in Gods hands. Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. In other words, we are not infallible judges of reality even as it pertains to our inmost selves. We are to trust in him to judge us justly, to rely on his mercy and his grace, and to confidently go ahead with the business of keeping his commandment of active faith in Christ shown forth in love to the brethren.
Again, we are not to worry about how we, in our weakness, are to accomplish this: He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. This indwelling is established at the font and sustained from the altar for all who approach it with penitence and faith. We are asked to give to God all of ourselves that we can; in return, he gives us all of himself, and in that giving, he makes us partakers of his perpetual love.
Thank you ,sionn.
My own sermon this week has the title, "Steadfast Resistance". It is time to publicly rebuke the world, the flesh and the devil.
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