The Third Sunday in Advent
The Rev. Mark Carroll MMV
O LORD Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
Readings appointed for Morning Prayer
Psalm 85, Isaiah 35, & 1 Thessalonians 5:12-23
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Isaiah 35The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God. Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-23And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture from 1928 Book of Common Prayer
In the collect we heard of John Baptist, and also in the Gospel. We have in this season of Advent many stories about John the Forerunner, who came to prepare the way of the Lord. John did indeed prepare the way, and he prepared the hearts of the people and initiated baptism as a part of his ministry as a sign of the turning of men from sin to God. In the Gospel, John sends his disciples from prison for news of Jesus' ministry. Was he indeed manifesting his divinity, his kingdom on earth? Were the people being healed in body, mind, and spirit? Yes was the answer that Jesus sent back; tell John that the blind see, the lame walk, and the poor have the Gospel. Then Jesus turned to those about him and lauded John as a prophet and more, as was fulfilled in the scriptures that God would send him before him to prepare the way.
Let us shift now to the one of the New Testament readings appointed for Morning Prayer this Sunday. Paul writes in his first letter to the Thessalonians, and instructs the Thessalonians on how they may prepare themselves. Remember the pleading of our collect this day: " by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found acceptable.
Paul begins by exhorting those in the Church to be at peace with one another and to submit to the elders appointed over them, saying: " And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves." The first thing he says is to know those who labor, those who work for the Kingdom, who are true to the faith and are rightly exercising their ordained authority in the Church... notice that I say rightly, because there are so many who do not exercise their authority correctly, in that they have abandoned the faith once delivered to the saints and have devised fables and lies, deceits that they give to the faithful. Are you to honor these false prophets and deceivers? No. Paul says to know them, a little later we will see more concerning this.
Now come the specific exhortations. It is like a listing that Paul enumerates here of specific actions the Thessalonians, and all members of the Church should do. Firstly, "warn them that are unruly." In the ancient church there were very specific rules for doing this. They have been brought forward in different traditions. In the Anglican tradition there is a rubric for the Holy Communion that instructs a minister to call any whose lives are a scandal to repent before coming to the Lord's Table. Recently in the Methodist church, a minister denied a sodomite membership in the church and gave him warning. That minister was dismissed by his superintendent, but recently restored because his actions were in full accordance with the Scriptures.
Secondly, "comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men." Do you see how Paul calls on the people to help those who are least able to help themselves - the aged who suffer from dementia, the old and sick who are physically incapacitated. And to exercise charity through patience and forbearance to all men, not only those of the church. This is a true mark of the church exercising true religion. Thirdly, "See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men." Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord [Rom 12:19]. Paul calls on the people to be peaceful. To first suffer evil rather than to join in and become a part of more evil. To seek peaceful living among not only themselves but all people. In another place Paul warns evildoers that they who break the peace shall come under the condemnation of the princes and rulers, who rightfully exercise their authority to keep the peace. Indeed, Paul himself would call for the exercise of the Roman authority when he was about to be killed in the Temple at Jerusalem as it is recorded in Acts.
Fourthly, "Rejoice evermore." Paul says we should rejoice always and that it because no matter what may happen to us in this cruel world, we can take comfort in knowing that nothing may separate us from the love of God and his promise.
Fifthly, "Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." In all we do, at all times, be at one with the Lord Jesus who abides within you. Speak to him giving thanks for all things, sharing your needs and the needs of others, and asking for his divine guidance in your life. He has come in to your heart and his desire is to commune with you at all times.
Sixly, "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; " What does Paul mean here? This is something that is debatable I think. Paul seems to be saying that the Spirit was still moving in the Church at this time, and that the men should not make others silent, that is "quench the spirit", but rather should listen to those who prophesy and proclaim God's will in their own time, but with one very essential caveat, "prove all things". Like the mighty Bereans, who received the Gospel, but who searched the scriptures diligently to prove what they had heard. We are hearing new things in this age that people attribute to the Holy Spirit moving in the Church. We are called upon by Paul to test these things. Recently the Episcopal Church consecrated a sodomite, and proclaimed that his lifestyle was not sinful, but wholesome – many of their bishops claim the Holy Spirit is doing a new thing. Most of the people in the Anglican Communion deny this, and think that the only spirit leading this innovation, which is directly against the faith and scripture as received, is Evil. What shall we do? Paul tells us, for he says, "hold fast that which is good." Let me give you an example from the last century of a good. Greedy men who controlled capital had found that they could hire children to work the mines, the mills, and so forth, at extremely low wages and under conditions far worse than slavery. The church of the 1800's in England, America, Germany, and other industrial nations, rose up and denounced this as being against Christian ethos. The result was an awakening in the consciences of men, and political action to protect the "least of these" our neighbors from the tyranny of the age. This was indeed, I believe, the work of the Holy Spirit in that age to right a wrong.
Finally, Paul exhorts us to "Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Roman Catholic church recently announced that sodomites were to be excluded from seminaries and the ordained ministry. These actions very much are in keeping with Paul's exhortation here. There was the appearance and reality of evil within the Catholic ordained ministry with over 10,000 cases of sodomy perpetrated by priests upon children who often served in the sanctuary, and large estimates of the number of sodomites in US seminaries. I applaud the actions of the Roman Church, and pray that it may thoroughly reform its ministry. I pray as well that all churches may look critically and honestly at every part of their communion, and take what action is necessary to root out evil - for woe is to them for whom such evil should come. And let all men, ordained and lay, prove all things against the Word of God.
Let us pray:
O GRACIOUS Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
The Reverend Mark Carroll, MMV
Song of Zacharias
Copyright 2003-2014 | Order of Centurions | Reviewed 7:13 PM 2/7/2014