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The Rev. Samuel Edwards: sermon for Trinity 15
Prydain ^ | 9/06/2005 | The Rev. Samuel Edwards

Posted on 09/06/2005 7:37:43 AM PDT by sionnsar

In this sermon, the Rev. Samuel Edwards of the Anglican Church of the Holy Comforter in Alabama deals with some questions that the catastrophe of the past week may have brought to our minds:

Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity (2005)

Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? … But seek ye first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. [Matthew 6:27, 33]

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

We have been reminded in today’s collect of what the headlines have been reminding us all week, namely that “the frailty of man without [God] cannot but fall.” The works of man are frail, to be sure: Electrical power fails, ships are carried inland by the waves, houses are pounded into matchwood, levees collapse, pumps are overwhelmed. Yet that is not the kind of frailty to which the collect – or the gospel – refers. Most people are willing to admit to the frailty of man’s works. What gives us trouble is the other kind of frailty – the frailty of man. Not just the physical frailty – the moral frailty. The works of man can be rebuilt by man, but a ruined soul is beyond man’s, or even mankind’s, capacity to repair.

Jesus in today’s gospel counsels us against anxiety. Worry about the circumstances of our lives accomplishes exactly nothing, he says. Being anxious cannot make us live a moment longer. (In fact, much medical evidence suggests that it has the opposite effect.) What we do out of anxiety is very likely to lead to the fundamental and original sin of wresting from God’s hands the control of our lives and trying to secure our own security, safety, salvation. When we do that, we have enthroned our selves and our interests on the altar in the holy place of the temple of the Spirit which our bodies are to be. This will prove itself a veritable abomination of desolation. Instead of bringing our selves and our interests to the altar and laying them at the feet of Him who by right of creation and redemption sits enthroned thereon, we take the work of our own hands and deify it. The spectacle of anarchy in New Orleans in the wake of the hurricane is horrible and shocking, but it ought not be surprising. This is what people do when we develop the habit of looking out for Number One and forget that it is not we who are Number One. When we act as if we are God, we invariably become less than human.

The diagnosis of this problem is clear in the way Jesus addresses his anxiety-ridden audience: “If God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” The problem is insufficiency of faith – the failure to decide to trust God. For that is what faith is: It is a decision to trust God to provide for us in the way that he knows we need to be provided for.

Now, this does not mean that what we are to do is just sit passively. We have just seen thousands of examples of what that can lead to. Jesus makes it clear that the life of faith is far from passive: “Seek ye first [God’s] Kingdom and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” We are not to sit; we are to seek – we are to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God – none of which actions, by the way, is focused on our selves. If we act in this way, we are becoming genuinely human after the model of the incarnate One who is the righteousness of God, and who is rightly described as “the man for others.” (“I came not to do my own will, but his who sent me.” – John 5:30) When this is our concern as well as his – when this is our concern in him – a then our response to fearful events is going to be of a very different character than if we’re looking out for ourselves. It will be a response more like that of those others we have seen in these recent days risking life and health for the relief of the suffering, some even while they are suffering themselves. He who is the man for others, who is perfect love and who calls us to dwell in him, and he in us, casts out fear.

This is also a good time to address another question that has arisen, as it always does after both natural and man-made catastrophes: Was this event a judgment of God on a sinful people? Interestingly, Jesus was asked that question by a group of people who were trying to make sense of two recent disasters. The first was an incident which concerned a group of Galilean pilgrims to Jerusalem who, for no known reason, had been killed by the Romans on the orders of Pilate while they were offering their sacrifices in the Temple. The other catastrophe was the collapse of a tower which killed a number of other people. Jesus’ questioners wanted to know where God was in all this. The conventional view of the time was that those killed must have been great sinners. Were these disasters God’s judgment on them?

Jesus gives no answer to that question, but answers it with another, which turns the focus of the questioners back on themselves: “Do you imagine that these Galileans were greater sinners than the rest of the Galileans because they were killed? Or that the victims of the building collapse were greater sinners than everyone else in Jerusalem? No, they weren’t – but I’m telling you that unless you repent, you will also perish.” In other words, treat each event of this sort as a reminder that man knows not his time of death, so the only prudent course is to be ready to meet it at any time. One can only be prepared if, recognizing his own frailty, he depends upon, lives by, and lives out the perpetual mercy of God, which is here to be spread forth for us to receive that we, being transformed thereby, may take it forth to distribute in a world that, without God, cannot but fall.
There is much insight into human nature in this sermon, for it is true that when we attempt to make ourselves gods unto ourselves, we become less than human--and we have seen that happen time and time again in history. It is also true that we must depend on the mercy of God that it might not happen to each of us as well--and that we may trust that mercy, for it is indeed perpetual and inexhaustible. In this, shown on Calvary and in the empty tomb, is indeed our hope and our peace.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 09/06/2005 7:37:44 AM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-9 pings/day).
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Resource for Traditional Anglicans:

Humor: The Anglican Blue (by Huber)

Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 09/06/2005 7:38:13 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
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To: evangelium

This is a ping.

3 posted on 09/06/2005 7:38:49 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
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To: sionnsar

Excellent, and timely, sermon.

4 posted on 09/06/2005 7:43:13 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother (. . . Ministrix of ye Chace (recess appointment), TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary . . .)
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