Sunday, March 27, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
The Water of Life
27 March 2011
In the BAS two complete sets of propers are provided for each of the third to fifth Sundays in Lent; one for Year A, the other for Years B & C. On the Third Sunday the theme for Year A is the Water of Life. This theme joins the first reading and the Gospel, and is presented in the Sentence and the Collect of the Day. The Collect may be more true to our experience in praying that we may always thirst for the water of life that Christ gives, and we might be more honest that say that the theme of this Sunday is Thirst.
The first reading this Sunday contains the first use of the word ‘thirst’ in Scripture. Thirst means not only the physical thirst for water, but also to desire anything eagerly. The thirst of the soul is the thirst for the living God [Psalms 42.2, 63:1]. The prophet Amos said [8.11]: Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. So our Lord Jesus said that they are blessed who hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5.6). This is the thirst that the readings address today. For just as physical life needs fresh clean water, so fullness of life requires the peace, joy, truth, freedom, love, and justice that are the life of God. This is offered to us from the well of life, who is Christ our Lord.
Water from the Rock.
The people moved from camp to camp through the wilderness to Rephidim, where there was no water (1). The camps or ‘stages’ are given in detail in Numbers 33. Rephidim means "rests" or "stays" or "resting places"; See Numbers 33:12-13. The people’s murmuring now grows stronger and they find fault with Moses, who asks why they put the Lord to the test , that is, why do you demand proof that God is in your midst: see v. 7b. It seems that God may test the Israelites, but the Israelites may not test God. [2-3]. The first occurrence of the word ‘thirst’ in scripture is in this verse. When Moses complains to God he is commanded to strike the rock at Horeb, from which water will flow. There is nothing to indicate what rock is meant. In the Sinai, water lies below the limestone surface rock; the trick is to know where to hit it. For Horeb, another name for Mt Sinai, see 3:1. It has been suggested that Horeb was a name for the whole mountain of which Sinai was a particular summit or peak. On this see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_Mount_Sinai and links there. [4-6]. Because of the people’s complaining and quarrelling, Moses named the place Massah (Proof) and Meribah (Contention). These names were to become the reminders of Israel’s faithlessness; see Psalm 95.8, which was in turn quoted in Hebrews 3.7-11 and 4.3-11. The double name may have come from the joining of two traditions in which this story was recounted.
Following this incident is a battle with the Amalekites at Rephidim in which Israel is victorious by the Lord’s help (17.8-16). Then in Chapter 19 the people come to Mt Sinai
St Paul’s interpretation of the water from the Rock as the water given by Christ is found in 1 Corinthians 10.1-5
Note on Geography: None of the places mentioned in the account of the Exodus can be precisely located, and scholars argue over everything, even where Mt Sinai is, and whether it is the same as Mt Horeb (the traditional view).
The first part of the Psalm is a hymn celebrating God’s kingship over all the earth, as shown in his work of creation. The second part (7-11) declares that worship without obedience is displeasing to God. This is a cardinal principle of Old Testament religion: see also, for example, Psalms 15 and 24:3-6.
For the theme of God’s people being ‘the sheep of his hand’, see also Psalms 79:13 and 100:3, and the great Shepherd Psalm (23).
Psalm 95 was obviously chosen for use this Sunday because of the reference to the testing and contention of the first reading.
5.1-5: The result of justification is first peace with God, where once there was enmity. In the first verse, we have peace appears in some manuscripts as let us have peace; the Greek words are almost identical. If it is taken as an exhortation to be at peace with God, it seems to fit the passage from Exodus. The people of Israel had been rescued from slavery in Egypt—a parallel to salvation from the realm of sin and death—but as we see they still had to learn to live in peace with God, rather than always grumbling. Justification has also brought about the grace in which we stand, that is favour with God and the hope of glory. Even more, the knowledge that we are peace with God allows us even to rejoice in suffering—unlike the people at Rephidim!
6-11. All this is grounded in the wonderful love of God made manifest in the self-offering of Jesus; he died not for God’s friends, but for enemies that God desires to save. If his death did away with the enmity, how much more will his life save us. It is the life of Christ shared with us which is symbolized by the language about the Water of Life.
At about noon (though we should remember that terms such as ‘the sixth hour’ [v. 6] cannot really be interpreted quite so neatly), Jesus stopped to rest at a well near a town called Sychar. In pointing out that Jesus was tired out by his journey, and later asks for a drink, and in the words from the Cross in 19.28 (I thirst) the fourth Gospel brings out, as none of the others do, the reality of Christ’s humanity, in opposition to the error which supposed his body to be a mere appearance [this error is called ‘Docetism’, from a Greek word meaning ‘to seem’].
It seems to me that on this Sunday the heart of the passage is verse 14: ‘whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him shall become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ See also John 7.38.
For detailed comments on this long passage, please refer to Mr Haslam’s RCL commentary http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/alnt3l.shtml. I am not sure I agree with every detail, but I must wind up these notes and send them to you, as I have to go out and retrieve a lost telephone, and then apply myself to sermon preparation!
28 Monday: Charles Henry Brent, Bishop of the Philippines, and of Western New York, 1929
29 Tuesday: John Keble, Priest, 1866
30 Wednesday: Lenten Feria
31 Thursday: John Donne, Priest and Poet, 1631
1 Friday: Frederick Denison Maurice, Priest, 1872
2 Saturday: Henry Budd, First Canadian Native Priest, 1850
3 SUNDAY: THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT,
Next Sunday is known as ‘Laetare Sunday’; traditionally rose-coloured vestments are worn. An article on this Sunday can be found at : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laetare_Sunday.
It is also known as Mothering Sunday: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mothering_Sunday and http://www.thebookofdays.com/months/march/6.htm
Monday, March 21, 2011
The Reverend Doctor William Craig, Public Orator of the University of Trinity College and Priest-in-Charge of the Anglican Church of St Columba and All Hallows in East York, held a dinner this evening to celebrate the 20,000th day since his birth, at Café Taste on Queen Street West in Parkdale.
Guests included many Fellows of Trinity College, including the Registrar, Dr Bruce Bowden, and the Dean of Divinity, Dr David Neelands, many friends from the College, and his nephew, Mr Jonathan Craig.
The guests dined on French Onion soup, Ontario cheese flight, Filet mignon with roasted vegetables and Vanilla maple bread pudding. Various wines from the restaurant’s carefully chosen cellar were enjoyed.
Music was played from historic recordings conducted by Albert Ketèlbey (1875-1959), one of the finest English composers of light music of the 20th century.
My dear friends,
The occasion of this gathering is, I admit, a little unusual, and perhaps I should try to explain just where the idea came from. In Howl’s Moving Castle, a book for young people by Diana Wynne Jones, the wizard Howl takes part of Donne’s “Go and Catch a Falling Star” as a spell:
Things invisible to see
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee.
And he calculates: "‘That brings it to about Midsummer Day’. ‘What is brought to Midsummer Day?’ asked Sophie. ‘The time I’ll be ten thousand days old’, Howl said."
When I read this I naturally began to wonder how many days I had lived. Wondering about the number of one’s days is even more natural when you read the Bible a lot. As far back as Genesis the span of lie is spoken of as one’s days, and the 90th Psalm, which declares that ‘The days of our years [are] threescore years and ten’, prays that God will ‘teach [us] to number our days, that we may apply [our] hearts unto wisdom’. Still, it was mostly the wizard Howl that got me thinking; I was well past 10,000, but the 20,000th day was coming soon enough to remember and far enough away to plan some way of marking it.
That much for the occasion. I’d love to start a trend, so that celebrating some significant number of days became a popular thing to do; but over the years I have dropped ‘become a trend-setter’ from my life’s ambitions .
Now, something about this gathering. About 4,580 days ago, in a somewhat risky career move, I came back to Toronto and back to Trinity College. It’s a good rule: whenever being a grown-up isn’t working, go back to Trinity. I won’t speak in any detail of the ups and downs of the last 4,500 days except to say one thing. They were good days, for they were days filled with the friendship and support of a great many people.
Now my 20,000th day has coincided with the first time—certainly the first time since my return to Toronto; probably the first time ever—that it is possible to throw a party of any size to say thank you to some of the friends who have made a difference in the last 4,500 days. This would certainly be a larger party if space and resources allowed; it would not be any smaller.
This could be the embarrassing bit, but I have a feeling that detail would be tedious, and would accomplish little more than telling you who you are. But you all have something to do with Trinity, and I will only say that the two groups of the College that have made the most difference have been the members of the SCR, by their unfailing kindness in putting up with me (and sometimes making me work for it) and the undergraduates, now graduates, who accepted me in their community. A particular word to the class of 0T6: I think I shall come to the fifth anniversary reunion; thanks for thinking of me.
There are two guests who did not go to Trinity. I am very glad that my nephew (and neighbour) Jonathan can be here, along with his partner, Bridget Light. Jonathan is my only relative in Toronto; I love them all, but am terribly lucky in having this one here. To prove that Trinity can’t be kept out of any relationship, we should note that Bridget’s mother and uncle are Trinity graduates.
Finally, about the place. Jonathan introduce me to Café Taste and to our host, Jeremy Day. I like it here, and hope you do too. By the end of this evening I will likely be most happy that it is only a short walk home.
That’s it. Thank you all for coming; thank you all for the words and acts of friendship over all these days. Have fun.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
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Thursday, March 10, 2011
Sunday, 13 March 2011
The week of the beginning of Lent is full of activity, and the time for preparing notes is limited. After noting one or two points that are very important, I have promised myself to have this done and out today (which is Thursday). Because of the Lenten Study series, the rest of the season will mostly likely offer similar constraints.
Both the Sentence and the Collect refer to the Gospel. The Collect is a modified form of the traditional Prayer Book Collect for this Sunday; as always you might find it useful to compare the two versions. It is otherwise quite straightforward and need no require comment.
The first reading is part of this story; not the whole account of the Fall and Expulsion from Paradise but only of the temptation and the act of disobedience which ensued.
In the first three verses we here of the first commandment that was given; in the blissful garden, there was only one thing forbidden. Some have wondered why in verse 15 it is said that the man was put in the garden to till it if toil is part of the curse given for sin. Any gardener will know that this does not really contradict the later curse (3.17f.) The ideal existence for man is not idle enjoyment, but easy and pleasant work; “the highest aspiration of the Eastern peasant” being to keep a garden. For keep Skinner reads guard and notes: The question from what the garden had to be protected is one that should not be pressed.
The second part should run from Genesis 2.25 to 3.7, since a play on words in involved. The Hebrew words for ‘naked’ (2.25) and ‘crafty’ (3.1) are almost identical; in roman letters they are ‘arowm and ‘aruwm. The pair were naked and did not know it and were unashamed, that is, they were innocent; the temptation was to eat the fruit and become wise; but when the couple’s eyes are opened it is not in wisdom but in shame as they become aware that they are naked.
For the Psalm and the Epistle Reading, Please consult http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/alnt1l.shtml
The Holy Gospel according to St Matthew 4.1–11
I suggest that for detailed comment on the Gospel passage you consult the RCL Commentary at http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/alnt1l.shtml I also heartily recommend some Links to several important resources for the study of the Lord’s temptations which may be found in last year’s notes for Lent I see http://williammusing.blogspot.com/2010_02_01_archive.html : Friday, February 19, 2010.
The NJBC`s comment on this passage is worth noting in full: “Mark relates this event in two verses (1.12-13) He tells the fact of the temptation but not the details. This probably reflects the situation of the disciples regarding the event: they knew that Jesus had been tempted but since temptation is essentially a personal, inner experience, they did not know exactly what had gone on in Jesus’ consciousness. The version in Matthew and Luke thus represents a narrative midrash or interpretation of events in such a way as to make it pastorally useful for believers.” But one might wonder—if the disciples knew that Jesus had been tempted, then they must have known it because he told them. Did he tell them no more than: I was tempted? Or did he himself tell them something of what went on in his consciousness? In the radio play ‘The King’s Herald’, the second part of The Man Born to be King, Dorothy L Sayers tells in a way both dramatically and humanly possible how this might have been. The section is unfortunately too long to quote fully here. But at the cost of detailed comment on the text, we would do well to look at the opening words, which are enough to make the point. The full scene is found on pages 85 to 87 of the plays; there is a copy in the parish library.
JESUS: Children, children—you don’t know with whose voice you are speaking. Appetite, superstition, and force: none of these can bring in the Kingdom. It is God’s Kingdom we are looking for. Listen, and try to understand. When I came to John for baptism, and heard God call me His son, I went into the desert to fast and pray. And when after forty days I came out from the presence of God, I realised that I was very hungry; and in the same moment I knew that I was not alone.
JOHN EVANGELIST: Were you visited by an angel?
ANDREW: John Baptist often sees visions when he has fasted.
JESUS: Something spoke in me that was not myself, and said: “Why go hungry? If you are the Son of God—if indeed you are the Son of God—you have only to command, and these desert stones will be turned into bread.” And I knew it was true. I had only to command.
ANDREW: But that would be a miracle …
JESUS: There are more difficult miracles than that …. Don’t look so alarmed; the bread you are eating came from the baker. … But miracles mustn’t be used for one’s self—only for other people.
13 Sunday: Quadragesima: the First Sunday in Lent
14 Monday: Lenten Feria
15 Tuesday: Lenten Feria
16 Wednesday: Lenten Feria
Fr Craig will be presiding at Evensong at Trinity College Chapel at 5:15
17 Thursday: Memorial of Patrick, Missionary Bishop in Ireland, 461
7 pm: Stations of the Cross and Lent Study at St Columba and All Hallows
18 Friday: Commemoration of Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Teacher of the Faith, 386
19 Saturday: Saint Joseph of Nazareth: Holy Day
20 Sunday: The Second Sunday in Lent
The Commemoration of Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, Missionary, 687 may be transferred to 22 March
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Prepared for the Anglican Church of St Columba and All Hallows, East York, Toronto
By the Revd Dr William Craig, Priest-in-Charge
The following notes are a complete revision and reorganization of Lenten Notes that have been previously published.
"I invite you, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination, and repentance, by prayer, fasting, and self-denial, and by reading and meditating upon God’s holy Word." [p. 612]
The BAS improves on this by adding an eighth, almsgiving, after fasting.
We have then seven things to take into account when planning how to keep Lent. Under the first heading, self-examination, comes a discipline best taken up before Lent begins. This is not an examination of conscience as much as it is an examination of practice. The Catechism in the Prayer Book concludes with this recommendation [p. 555]:
“Every Christian man or woman should from time to time frame for himself a RULE OF LIFE in accordance with the precepts of the Gospel and the faith and order of the Church …”
It then suggests several things you should consider in framing such a rule for yourself. Slightly adapted, these are:
The regularity of your attendance at public worship and especially at the holy Communion.
Your practice of private prayer, Bible-reading, and self-discipline.
Bringing the teaching and example of Christ into your everyday life.
The boldness of your spoken witness to his faith in Christ.
Your personal service to the Church and the community.
The offering of money according to your means for the support of the work of the Church at home and overseas.
So the first question to ask yourself in Lent is whether you are living up to the Rule of Life, and the first task of Lent is to put the Rule into practice with particular care and intention.
But what if you have never been taught about the Rule of Life until now, or even read page 555 of the Prayer Book? Then the first task I preparing for Lent is to examine your life and begin to frame a Rule for yourself. So we have come to the first action of Lent, SELF-EXAMINATION, to which is naturally joined
There are two starting points to repentance: the first is to measure your life against a particular standard. Best is to use the Ten Commandments as they are set out in the Prayer Book on pages 546-549; other devotional books give more detailed questions for self-examination. The second is to pray for God’s grace to see yourself honestly, without excuses.
Then it is simple: simply tell God what you have done wrong, and say you are sorry and believe that in Christ Jesus he forgives you. Resolve not to do it again, and tell him that. If you have done wrong to another person, do what you can to put it right, praying for strength if it is difficult. By the way, I said this is simple, not that it is easy, but if it is hard, pray for help and it will come.
If after you have done this you still feel guilty or have some other difficulty, then see a priest.
Above all, remember the Comfortable Words:
COME unto me all that labour and are heavy laden, and 1 will refresh you. St Matthew 11. 28.
God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have eternal life. St John 3. 16.
Hear also what Saint Paul saith. This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1 Timothy 1. 15.
Hear also what Saint John saith. If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins. 1 St John 2. 1, 2
Remember, above all, that God loves you and wants to forgive you.
PRAYER. STUDY, AND BIBLE-READING
This is, however, a good place to consider BIBLE-READING and other forms of Study in Lent. There are many resources available, we won’t add anything here, except perhaps to suggest that personal Lenten study could well begin with the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7 of St Matthew). As well, of course, there are many series of studies available in Churches in Lent.
A monastic discipline for Lent is to take a book from the library and read it through, without skipping.
The truth is that good advice on your personal Lenten reading can only come from someone who knows you.
FASTING & ABSTINENCE
Here is the first problem of Lent. Our church tells us that there are days of abstinence and days of fasting, but gives us no official definition of these terms; it seems to assume we know what they mean. Indeed, there are traditional definitions (which are codified in the rules of the Roman Church, but about which we have no law): to fast is to take no food for a certain time, while to abstain is to do without a particular kind of food, usually meat. Perhaps a snapshot from a moment in Anglican history can shed some light here.
At the Savoy Conference on the Prayer Book in 1661 the Presbyterian theologians objected that “Christ’s fasting forty days and nights” was “no more imitable, nor intended for the imitation of a Christian, than any other of his miraculous works were, or than Moses his forty Days fast was for the Jews.” To this the Bishops replied,
“The fasting forty days may be in imitation of our Saviour, for all that is here said to the contrary; for though we cannot arrive to his perfection, abstaining wholly from meat [i.e., food] so long, yet we may fast forty days together, either Cornelius his fast, till three of the Clock afternoon, or St Peter’s fast till noon, or at least Daniel’s fast, abstaining from Meats and Drinks of delight, and thus far imitate our Lord.”
So our tradition offers us three possible rules of fasting. We might also consider the old rule of the Roman Church that “fasting essentially consists in eating but one full meal in twenty-four hours and that about midday.” It also involves abstinence from meat in the same period. The rule was later relaxed to allow “a collation, usually taken in the evening.” It is obvious that to go into details of such rules would be to little purpose here. It is quite reasonable to suggest that on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday one abstain from eating at least until one has taken part the solemn rites of the day, but to stick to one meal, and that of the simplest quality.
The purpose of fasting is a more important consideration. Bishop Jeremy Taylor wrote in The Rules and Exercises of Holy Living, that fasting serves us in three ways: (i.) it serves prayer; (2.) it serves the mortification of bodily lusts; (3.) it serves repentance.
Of these we might need to clarify the second a little. The meaning of “lusts” has become somewhat narrow in recent times, so that it no longer means just any desires or appetites, but only the “sinful lusts”. The mortification of lusts really means bringing our appetites under control, so that they do not control us. Experience shows that “mortification” is not too strong a word for this. To give up something which has become a habit can be like dying. By fasting we learn to do without things which are good but not necessary, which we like but don’t really need. We will return to that point when we think about Self-denial.
Young children (traditionally under seven) and persons over 60 are not bound to fast in the Roman Church, but “Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.” It is perhaps needless to point out that one following a diet for medical reasons should not change it in Lent. Likewise, a person who is supposed to take medication with food may have to take a little something in the morning before Church on the two fast days.
As to abstinence, the only serious question is what a Vegetarian should do. I can give no advice here, because I do not know if there is anything in the diet of such a one that can be considered the equivalent of meat. If anyone has wiser advice, I would be grateful to hear it.
The lack of a hard and fast rule about fasting should not be taken as an excuse to do nothing at all. But all too often that is just the way Anglicans take things!
So what should I give up for Lent? Keble leads us to the answer: it should be one of “innocent pleasures of the world.” As a wise colleague once said to me, “You give up for Lent something that you can quite rightly take up again at Easter”. It should be something good and lawful that you can do without, though perhaps not easily. The fact that the thing given up is not sinful or wrong is precisely why giving it up is a discipline. For the root is of that word is ‘to learn’; it is what a disciple does. A person who chooses to give up something perfectly innocent for a time learns self-control. Self-denial is protection against temptation when it comes, less dependent on pleasure. And since the thing given up is not itself wrong, failure in the discipline is not catastrophic. It merely shows where one needs to pray more and seek strength. Beyond that I have no suggestions to make as to what any person might give up, except to say that ‘giving something up’ is in addition to the rule of abstinence from meat in Lent.. There are some helpful ideas in two articles which may be found on line at Project Canterbury. They are:
“Some thoughts about Lent for Busy People” By E.F. Pemberton (London: Mowbray, no date):
“The Lenten Fast” by the Rev. Charles T. Stout (Milwaukee: Morehouse, no date)
'TAKING SOMETHING ON'
That said, the traditional disciplines of Lent are full of things to take on; more prayer, more study, more acts of kindness to others. The modern idea of the Carbon Fast is to be commended, though this is not something that replaces the fast from food.
Almsgiving is a Christian duty all year round, of course: it is clear from the Gospels that there are no exceptions to the Lord’s commandments (see, for example, Mt 5.42; Lk 6.29-30). Nor does the ‘all’ in the baptismal promise to ‘seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself’ leave much room for picking and choosing whom you will help.
Lent is a time to be more serious and more intentional in following the commandments of Christ. It is perhaps an odd thing that the fact that in a modern city where opportunity is never lacking to obey the commandment “Give to him who begs from you” it is often so hard to obey. But at least once a year let’s remember that our Lord doesn’t say we should ask if the beggar deserves it, or wonder what horrid thing our alms might get spent on, or discuss the state’s duty to alleviate poverty. Perhaps once a year for forty days we can just give to everyone who asks, as our Lord commanded.
Still, what you do about all this is between you and God, and since we are not to judge one another, we won’t ask what you do. But the Gospel suggests that Jesus asks, and will ask (see Mt 25:31-46).
THE POINT OF LENT
“…if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast again—well, of course, Christian holiness was never meant to be merely negative. Of course you have to weed the garden from time to time; sometimes the ground ivy may need serious digging before you can get it out. That’s Lent for you. But you don’t want simply to turn the garden back into a neat bed of blank earth. Easter is the time to sow new seeds and put out a few cuttings. If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to flourish as a Christian and a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering, and training up things in your life … that ought to be blossoming, and in due course bearing fruit. The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving. You may be able to do in only for sic weeks, just as you may be able to go without beer or tobacco only for the six weeks of Lent. But if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities. new hopes, new ventures you never dreamed of. It might bring something of Easter into your innermost life. It might help you wake up in a whole new way. And that’s what Easter is all about.”
- N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: Harper One, 2008), p. 257.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Also Known as Quinquagesima
Proper 9 in Year A
6 March 2011
The Sunday before Ash Wednesday may be kept as the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, in celebration of the Lord’s Transfiguration, or as whatever Sunday after Epiphany has been reached in the course of the Calendar Year. I am not at all sure that keeping the ‘Last Sunday’, which has the effect of creating a hitherto unheard-of “Epiphany Season’, is particularly beneficial, especially when it displaces the final reading of selections from the Sermon on the Mount.
Furthermore, the lectionary gives the option of reading the Gospel of the Transfiguration on Lent II, along with a collect which presumes that reading and is more fitting to the season than is the Collect for the Feast of the Transfiguration, appointed to be used for the ‘Last after Epiphany’.
Indeed, the church has always celebrated the Transfiguration on August 6th, and the fact that many neglect to keep that day is an argument for better teaching and example rather than for a new observance.
Finally, since in the homilies at St Columba’s we have been following the readings from the Sermon on the Mount, it seems good to me to continue that sequence of readings.
All of which leads me to apologize to anyone who is looking here for notes on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany; these notes are primarily intended for the people of St Columba and All Hallows, and the occasions where this causes any difficult for others are very few.
The second explanation is for the fact that the notes are a bit sketchy, and mostly consist of cross-references. The explanation is simple: though Lent begins late this year, it has still crept up suddenly, and Ash Wednesday, Lenten Sermons, and the Lenten Study series are all clamouring for my attention,
Neither the Sentence nor the Collect for Proper Nine is in any way remarkable.
The first Reading and the Gospel for this Sunday together give us a clear theme: Hearing and Doing the Word. The sense of the passage from Deuteronomy is well expressed by a passage from near the beginning of C. S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair (one the Narnia books):
The great Lion Aslan sends Jill Pole into Narnia with Four signs to guide her on the quest for the lost Prince Rillian.
“As the Lion seemed to have finished, Jill thought she should say something. So she said, ‘Thank you very much. I see.’
“’Child,’ said Aslan, in a gentler voice than he had yet used, ‘perhaps you do not see quite as well as you think. But the first step is to remember. Repeat to me, in order, the four signs.’
“Jill tried, and didn’t get them quite right. So the Lion corrected her, and made her repeat them again and again until she could say them perfectly.”
After Aslan has explained that he will send her into Narnia on his breath, he says, ‘Stand still. In a moment I will blow. But, first, remember, remember, remember the
signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. … Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.’
The first reading: Deuteronomy 11.18–21, 26–28
18. These my words: from 6.6-9 we learn that these words are the great commandment to Love the Lord your God; see also 11.13,
26-32: The Two Ways: see Deuteronomy Chapter 28 and especially 30.15-20. Every moment is a moment of solemn decision between God’s will and one’s own. It might be helpful in this context to reflect on the Gospel teaching about serving two masters.
It is also important to note that in order to make the right choice in actions one must hear the law and know it, ‘writing it on one’s heart’.
The opening two verses (1.16-17) have been described as the ‘theme of the entire book’, the declaration that righteousness does not depend upon obedience to law, but on faith in God’s act of redemption in Christ Jesus.
3.21-26: The true Righteousness.
27-31: ‘Boasting’ is excluded
27: see 4:2; 1 Corinthians 1:29-2:2; Ephesians 2:8-9. If it were our works that justified, we could boast; but salvation is by faith, and pride is excluded. By what law: this is literally correct; it can also be translated as On what principle. For Paul’s use of ‘law’ in this sense, see Romans 7:21-23.
The contrast between faith and works in the writings of Paul is an important idea to keep in mind as we read of the importance of doing the will of God. These works of justice and mercy are not ‘works’ in the sense Paul is rejecting, but are what he speaks of elsewhere as the fruits of the Spirit; there are result and evidence of saving faith. Indeed, a problem with the idea of being justified by works is that one tends to think of how much work is enough, of ‘my good deed for the day’. The ‘works’ that come out of faith are done cheerfully because they are the right thing to do, and there is no limit to them.
The Holy Gospel according to St Matthew 7.21–29
The conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 7.1-28 is not included in the Sunday lectionary of Year A; some of the parallel passages from Luke are read in Year C. it is most perplexing that this material is not included in the Sunday Gospels.
The NOAB gives Matthew 7.1-27 the general heading Illustrations of the practical meaning of Jesus’ Message, in which we can make the following divisions:
1-5: Judgment of others (Luke 6.37-38; 41-42; Mark 4,24)
6: Reserve in communicating religious privileges.
7-11: Encouragement to prayer (Ask, seek, knock)
12: The Golden Rule
13-14: Enter by the Narrow Gate
15-20: Warning against false Prophets: By their fruits you shall know them. These last verses should be taken together with the opening verses of the passage read today.
21: see Matthew 12.50; Luke 6.46, Romans 2.13; 1 ; Corinthians 12.3; James 1.20, 2.14; 1 John 2.17.
22: see Jeremiah 14.14, 22.14-15; Luke 10.20, 13.26; 1 Corinthians 13.1; also Mark 9.38.
Many will say to me in that day. Gore notes: we should notice the claim which our Lord here makes for Himself. Without preface, without emphasis, as a matter of course, He implies that He is the final judge of all men, not only as to the outward results they achieve, but also as regards the secret inner motives of their hearts and the character of their lives. ‘Many shall come to me in that day’, i.e. in 'the Day of Jehovah’ the day of final assessment—'They will come to Me ; they will profess loyalty to Me, saying, “Lord, Lord;” they will plead their good works: but I shall discern the true inner character of their lives’. Prophesy in the Bible means primarily to proclaim the word of God, whether prediction of the future is involved or not. See Jeremiah 14.14, 22.14-15; Luke 10.20, 13.26; 1 Corinthians 13.1; also Mark 9.38.
23: see the parables of Judgement in Matthew, Chapter 25, and especially the words at 25.12 and 25.41.
24-27: The sermon concludes with a parable contrasting the two ways of hearing Jesus’ word. See Luke 6.47-49. Gore: … lastly, our Lord gives the warning that each spiritual fabric must be judged by its power of lasting. Here, again, is the tremendous claim: the only solid foundation for life is Jesus and His words.
It is impossible to read these words without thinking of Matthew 16.18.
26: see James 1.22
27: see Ezekiel 13.10-15. Gore: Our Lord … would have [us] dig down to the rock, and build [our] spiritual fabrics there ; and the rock is nothing else than His own person and His own word. To hear Him, and go away without imbibing His teaching and putting it into practice, to be nominally a Christian but in reality of the world, that is to build a house upon the sand.
28: see 11.1; 13.15; 19.1, 26.1; Luke 7.2
Gore: And here we leave the great sermon. It is not, as some suppose, the whole of Christianity. Those who have been inclined so to esteem it have been apt to underrate the amount of theological doctrine which is to be found in it. It postulates, as we have seen, two central doctrines: that of the divinity of Christ's person, and that of the sinfulness of human nature. But, even so, it is not the whole of Christianity. It begets in us, or develops and deepens, the sense of sin, and so may be said to point to what it does not teach, the atonement by which our Lord has expiated the sins of the world, and brought us back to reconciliation with our Father which is in heaven. But again an atonement which merely secured our forgiveness for past sins would be no real remedy. It would leave us weak as we were before. Nothing can satisfy us but actual and permanent redemption from the power and the taint of sin. Thus again the sermon may be said to point forward to that great supply of moral power which by the coming of the Spirit of God has been given inwardly in the hearts of His people. It is that inward grant of Christ-like power the administration of the Spirit which is the real essence of Christianity. All else is a preparation for it. Christianity is not so much a statement of the true end or ideal of human life as it is a great spiritual instrument for realizing the end.
The realizing of the moral end of life that is the test of your Christianity. Be sure of that. The hold we have on our creeds, the use we make of the sacraments, can be judged by one test—do they lead to the formation in us of Christian character? The character may be cleansed and perfected after death, but here and now is our opportunity for laying its foundations deep and firm, and showing its power to absorb the whole of our being. That is the test which we cannot press home upon ourselves too often—am I becoming like Christ ?
Many will come to Him in that day with a record of their orthodoxy and of their observances, of their brilliant successes in His professed service ; but He will protest unto them, 'I never knew you.’ He 'knows no man in whom He cannot recognize His own likeness.
“ ... the need of devout preparation for the receiving [of Holy Communion], so that ye may come holy and clean to such a heavenly Feast, in the marriage-garment required by God in holy Scripture, and be received as worthy partakers of that holy Table.
“The way and means thereto is: First, to examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God's commandments; and whereinsoever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended, either by will, word, or deed, there to confess yourselves to Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life. And if ye shall perceive your offences to have been against your neighbours, then ye shall reconcile yourselves to them, being ready to make restitution. Ye must also be ready to forgive others that have offended you, as you would have forgiveness of your offences at God's hand. Therefore if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slanderer of his Word, an adulterer, or be in malice or envy, or in any other grievous crime, repent you of your sins; else come not to that holy Table.
“And because it is requisite, that no man should come to the holy Communion, but with a full trust in God's mercy, and with a quiet conscience; therefore if there be any of you, who by this means cannot quiet his own conscience herein, but requireth further comfort or counsel, let him come to me, or to some other discreet Minister of God's Word, and open his grief; that by the ministry of God's holy Word, he may receive the benefit of absolution, together with spiritual counsel and advice, to the quieting of his conscience, and the avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness. [BCP]
For more information you should also read the form for the Reconciliation of a Penitent in the BAS (pp 166-172).
We do not require anyone to make such confession as your duty, but offer it as your right: rather than live in doubt and guilt, in this way you may be assured of Christ’s pardon and forgiveness.
6 SUNDAY THE NINTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY (QUINQUAGESIMA)
7 Monday Memorial of Perpetua and her Companions, Martyrs at Carthage, 202
For further information, see
8 Tuesday Commemoration of Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln, 1910
Shrove Tuesday; Pancake Supper, 6 p.m.
For further information on Bishop King, see
9 WEDNESDAY ASH WEDNESDAY
Ash Wednesday Liturgy 10 a.m. and 7.30 p.m.
11 Friday Memorial of Gregory of Nyssa, c. 395 (transferred)
12 Saturday Lenten Feria
13 SUNDAY THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT (QUADRAGESIMA)