Trinity 14, 2016

 

The Epistle. Galatians 5:16-24

The Gospel.  St. Luke 17:11-19

 

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

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One of the primary charges against Anglicanism, Catholicism and liturgy in general is the presence or the existence and use of written prayers.

 

“How can you really be praying”, some will ask us, “if you are reading a prayer from a book?” 

“Someone else wrote it.  You didn't write it, so how can it come from the heart?”

“You are just reading it or hearing it read and saying ‘Amen’ to it, but you aren't really praying.”

 

 

Some, if not most of you, have heard this in some form or another in the past. 

 

The question is fair.  It usually comes from someone who has never done so however…. never prayed from a prayer previously written. So they do speak or ask from a standpoint of  ignorance.

 

We should have an answer, nevertheless, to anyone who asks.

 

It is strange that they can charge us with a lack of heart when they have no idea what is going on in the heart of another. 

 

So it is a bit presumptuous.

 

Many here can attest to the fact that praying written prayers, or saying ‘Amen’ to someone else’s written prayer can be indeed quite fulfilling, edifying and heartfelt in the deepest of ways….especially the ones written in our own Prayer Book.

 

They also forget that they probably pray the Lord’s Prayer from time to time.  But even then, there are some who refuse to do even that….because its written down….. even though it is a prayer given by our Lord to use and it is written down in the pages of Scripture for us to use.

 

Anyway, winning the argument will be left up to God.  We must move on and try to educate those who don't know what they are talking about. 

 

But the point here, is that our Collect today, our written prayer for the day has this to say…..

 

By the way, can we not also agree that the way in which our prayers are written, are so profound and so deep and so rich in meaning….that no matter how many times we do pray this way, from time to time we find new things in them that we have not found before?

 

These aren't just simple prayers. 

They are well thought out and so encompassing that they capture…. and they say much more than we usually can think of when praying extemporaneously (or off the top of our heads).

 

But, to the text for today.  Here are some key points in our prayer.  We ask God here today that He would give unto us an increase of faith, hope and charity (love).  Good and important things to ask for.

 

Further, we ask this interesting thing. 

The wording order is important.

 

We prayed that in order that we may obtain the things God promises, we ask God to make us to love what He commands of us.

 

God must make us love what we are supposed to do, as God’s faithful people, so that in the end we will obtain His promises. 

 

Probably referring to His promises of blessing, happiness, steadfastness in this life, faith, hope, love, forgiveness, redemption, and finally everlasting life.

 

This wording does not mean God is forcing us to do this, but that He is working in us a love for these things so that we freely love them by understanding how lovely they are.

 

But in order to obtain them, we do not do so by mere outward obedience to His commands.  We must love them also.

This is the point about the prayers we pray in our liturgy and MP and EP.  We are not to just read them and recite them and not at the same time desire to plumb the depths of their meaning.

 

We are not just to read them without at the same time, seeing the Glory of God in them.  Seeing the amazing Grace given through them. 

Loving God in Christ more through them.

 

We are to be mentally engaged in the prayers we pray so that we may understand what they mean and then let them ignite a desire in us to mean what we pray.

 

So to those who wonder why and how written prayers are used, we have to keep in mind that we do not just read them, say ‘Amen’ to them and then walk away or shut off our minds.

 

There must be an intentionality to praying them in order for them to be edifying to us….for them to feed and nourish us.  For them to cause us to understand them and then heartily say ‘Amen’ to them.

 

This is not uncommon.  We have in our Prayer Book also in Easter the same sort of thing.  A desire to receive from God what He alone can give us and at the same time for Him to change us to want what He desires to give us.

 

“O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men: Grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that

which thou dost promise;

 

Why do we do so?  that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found…”

 

Or just a few weeks back in Trinity 6,

“O God, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man's understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards thee, that we, loving thee in all things and above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord…”

 

This point is driven home in both of our Scripture readings for today. 

 

In the Epistle from Paul, Galatians 5 he says, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.  They are contrary to one another.  They are opposed to one another.

 

Then he tells us what the works of the flesh are.  Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, drunkenness. 

 

Those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

 

But what we need to have wrought in us by God…the things we are to do are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against these there is no law.

 

The Oxford Prayer Book Commentary says about this section from Paul today…and it ties directly to our Collect.

 

“The Law is powerless to make man righteousness.  Though obedience to the Law could preserve him from committing those grosser sins called here ‘the works of the flesh,’ it could not produce in and of itself those interior ‘fruits of the Spirit,’ such as love and joy and peace, and so forth.  Law cannot deal with such things.  They are spiritual. 

The Law may prevent me from murdering my neighbor, but it cannot make me love my neighbor.  Only the Spirit of Christ can cope with the inward affections of the heart and mind.

 

There is the key. Only the Spirit of Christ can cope with the inward affections of the heart and mind.

 

Only the Spirit of Christ can make the inward affections of the heart and the mind desire what we pray.  Desire what God desires for us.  And walk in willful obedience to His commands and precepts.

 

Likewise in our Gospel for today.  10 men with leprosy approach Jesus and implore Him to heal them.  They cry for mercy.

 

And Jesus heals them.  Actually at their request for mercy (healing) He tells them to go and show themselves to the priest.

There is no mention of any sort of means used here.  He simply tells them to go and show themselves clean.

 

This was the common practice the Law of the Old Testament taught.  Leviticus 13 tells us:           “…when raw flesh appears on him, he shall be unclean. And the priest shall examine the raw flesh and pronounce him unclean. Raw flesh is unclean, for it is a leprous disease. But if the raw flesh recovers and turns white again, then he shall come to the priest, and the priest shall examine him, and if the disease has turned white, then the priest shall pronounce the diseased person clean; he is clean.” (Leviticus 13:14-17 ESV)  

 

There are also some ritual observances the now-clean person is to do.  But Jesus, knowing the Law, tells them to go and show themselves to the priest.  Their healing began immediately and was complete long before they got to the priest. 

 

One of the 10 men turns back and desires to give Jesus worship and thanks for this act of mercy.  This man is a Samaritan as Luke points out telling this story…..like last week’s Parable…the only one who offered help was a Samaritan.

 

In this story today, Jesus was going past Samaria (Samaritan territory) and Galilee on His way to Jerusalem.

 

All of the lepers could have been Samaritans.  We aren't told.  But the one who did come back and give thanks surely was.  And it is noted that He was a Samaritan.  It must have been mentioned for a reason.

 

Either way, the passage tells us Jesus wonders…. asking rhetorically… Weren’t 10 cleansed?  Where are the other 9?  Only one came back to give praise to God.

 

 

Then Jesus says to the one man who did come back, “Rise and go your way, your faith has made you well.”

 

Now, all 10 were healed, but Jesus says to this man that his faith made him well. Weren't the other 9 also made whole by faith? 

They seemed to have faith to ask Jesus to heal them.

They seemed to have faith enough to act as if He intended to heal them.

 

It would seem here, though, that their faith was not saving faith. 

 

M.F. Sadler, Anglican theologian says about this, “The Lord, by the words “your faith has saved you,” must allude to a far higher salvation, of which the salvation from leprosy was but the type.

For the faith of this Samaritan, so far as was possible before the Resurrection and Ascension, joined him to the Son of God.”[1]

 

What we seem to be seeing here then, is …and it ties directly to our Collect today as well as the spirit in which we approach all prayer is that “…though God’s gracious acts extend out to all people, not all respond and as a result they miss out on true and full blessing.”[2]

 

“Anyone is a candidate for God’s general acts of grace, but that does not mean one has received grace’s ultimate benefit. God’s grace extends to all, but only some receive the gift of salvation. That greater gift is received by faith, faith like that of the Samaritan who comes to Jesus.”[3]

 

Bishop Ryle sees how this ties to prayer when he asks, “How is it that many…are content to repeat a form of words, but never pray with their hearts?”[4]

 

We must pray in order to get better at praying.  Sounds strange.  But if we are to obtain what God promises we must do so, and do so loving what He commands of us.

                       

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

 



[1] Sadler, M. F. (1892). The Gospel according to St. Luke, with Notes Critical and Practical (Fourth Edition, p. 454). London: George Bell and Sons.

[2] Bock, D. L. (1996). Luke: 9:51–24:53 (Vol. 2, p. 1405). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[3] Bock, D. L. (1996). Luke: 9:51–24:53 (Vol. 2, p. 1406). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[4] Ryle, J. C. (1879). Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol. 2, p. 232). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.