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Seventh Sunday after Trinity

Holy Communion

West LaHave, Crousetown – July 6 AD 2008

Rom 6:17f    St. Mark 8:1f

 

Ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness

 and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now

yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 

 

What would a lively parish look like?  I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, and it brought to mind a visit of J.I. Packer to the Diocese of Saskatchewan when I was there.  He gave a talk on the Marks of Revival, and I thought it would be good to begin with a summary of that talk. 

 

Now don’t worry – there is no test on this, you don’t have to memorize it – so just relax.  I just want you to think about whether this is something that you want to happen here…

 

The features of revival movements on the surface vary widely, perhaps as a result of different settings, yet indeed God appears to delight in variety. Nevertheless, at the level of deeper analysis, there are constant factors recognizable in all biblical and post-biblical revivals, whatever their historical, racial, and cultural settings. [Think about this in terms of the examples in the Acts of the Apostles, some of the great reform movements in the 12th century (Francis, Dominic), the Reformation, the Wesleyan Revival, the Oxford Movement, and more recently.]  They number five, and are described below.  

 

Awareness of God's presence. The first and fundamental feature in revival is the sense that God has drawn awesomely near in his holiness, mercy, and might. This is felt as the fulfilling of the prayer of Isaiah 64:1ff: "O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at thy presence . . . to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence." God "comes," "visits," and "draws near" to his people, and makes his majesty known.

The effect is the same as it was for Isaiah himself, when he "saw the Lord sitting on a throne" in the temple and heard the angels' song — "Holy, holy, holy"— and was forced to cry, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips" (Is. 6:1-5). It is with this searching, scorching manifestation of God's presence that revival begins, and by its continuance that revival is sustained.  

[We are in God’s presence, do we know it?]

Responsiveness to God's Word. The sense of God's presence imparts new authority to his truth. The message of Scripture which previously was making only a superficial impact, if that, now searches its hearers and readers to the depth of their being.…God's message—the gospel call to repentance, faith, and holiness, to praise and prayer, witness and worship—authenticates itself unambiguously to men's consciences, and there is no room for half measures in response.

 

Sensitiveness to Sin. Deep awareness of what things are sinful and how sinful we are is the third feature of revival that calls for notice. No upsurge of religious interest or excitement merits the name of revival if there is no profound sense of sin at its heart. God's coming, and the consequent impact of his word, makes Christians much more sensitive to sin than they previously were: consciences become tender and a profound humbling takes place. The perverseness, ugliness, uncleanness, and guilt of sin are seen and felt with new vividness. Under revival conditions consciences are so quickened that conviction of each person's own sinfulness becomes strong and terrible, inducing agonies of mind that are beyond imagining till they happen. The gospel of forgiveness through Christ's cross comes to be loved as never before, as people see their need of it so much more clearly.

 

“But conviction of sin is a means, not an end; the Spirit of God convinces of sin in order to induce repentance, and one of the more striking features of revival movements is the depth of repentance into which both saints and sinners are led. … Revival always includes a profound awareness of one's own sinfulness, leading to deep repentance and heartfelt embrace of the glorified, loving, pardoning Christ.

 

Liveliness in Community. A revived church is full of the life, joy and power of the Holy Spirit. With the Spirit's coming, fellowship with Christ is brought right to the center of our worship and devotion; the glorified Christ is shown, known, loved, served, and exalted. Love and generosity, unity and joy, assurance and boldness, a spirit of praise and prayer, and a passion to reach out to win others are recurring marks of a people experiencing revival. So is divine power in their preachers, a power which has nothing to do with natural eloquence. [Please pray for your preacher.]

 

Fruitfulness in testimony. Revival always has an evangelistic and ethical overspill into the world. When God revives the church, the new life overflows from the church for the conversion of outsiders and renovation of society. Christians become fearless in witness and tireless in their Savior's service. They proclaim by word and deed the power of the new life, souls are won, and a community conscience informed by Christian values emerges. Also in revival times God acts quickly; his work accelerates. Truth spreads, and people are born again and grow in Christ, with amazing rapidity.

 

“Such in outline is the constant pattern by which genuine movements of revival identify themselves. Christians in revival are accordingly found living in God's presence (coram Deo), attending to his word, feeling acute concern about sin and righteousness, rejoicing in the assurance of Christ's love and their own salvation, spontaneously constant in worship, and  tirelessly active in witness and service, fueling these activities by praise and prayer. The question that presses is whether revival is actually displayed in the lives of Christian individuals and communities: whether this quality of Christian life is there or not.”

 

So here is Packer’s vision of a church in revival.  Does this sound like something we want here?  Often we think of a religious revival as lots of people coming suddenly into the Church – but actually it starts with the people who are in the Church.

 

The good news is that my purpose this morning is not to call on you to do more than you are doing now – I’m not suggesting we need more fundraisers!  so please relax – I know that many of you are working full out doing good works.

 

What I’d like to suggest is that revival in our souls begins by truly allowing ourselves to enter into God’s rest.  It comes about from reaching out to touch and from being touched by God. 

 

First, from the Epistle…

as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 

 

If we take a careful look at our lives – how are we spending our desire?

Are we drinking too much, eating too much, are we falling into old patterns of thinking –  unchastity, covetousness, anger, envy, are we full of vain thoughts about how great we are – all these things exhaust us and keep us from seeing the dazzling light of heaven inwardly.

 

What happens to us in those very moments when we are lonely, when we are anxious about the future or about our family or about our health or whatever?

 

Instead of spending ourselves in that very moment on something which does not give life, but covers over true life, let us instead reach out for God.  And by that I mean, take a step back and lift our hearts to heaven and seek to enter God’s rest.  A little less – Martha – and a little more – Mary, resting at the feet of Jesus and listening.  Do less, but whatever we do, do it in the right direction and renewal will come to our souls.  Now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.  God gives us the true rest that the world cannot give.  Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you, ask and it shall be given to you…This is an inward, quiet seeking, knocking, asking…  This is our reaching out (or rather reaching in) to touch the divine glory. 

 

But this inward turn is hard, because it seems a kind of darkness, there are things in the way of us seeing God inwardly – our sin, and we are afraid to look there.  Jesus knows this and provides the light, the assurance of forgiveness, the complete cleansing away of our inner darkness.  He promises to reach out to us to touch us from within our hearts with His divine glory.

 

In today’s Gospel…

Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: and if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way; for divers of them came from far

 

He took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. And they had a few small fishes; and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.  So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. 

 

In the Holy Communion, Jesus gives us His Body and His Blood.  He touches us inwardly with the divine glory and breaks through our inner darkness.  When we feed on Him in our hearts by faith, His powerful presence is manifested to us inwardly.  And the Marks of Renewal begin to appear in us, “there is deep repentance and a heartfelt embrace of the glorified, loving, pardoning Christ.”

 

Here is forgiveness for our spiritual sloth, for our dissipating our strength on things that only bring death.  Here is spiritual food in the wilderness to strengthen us in all goodness.

 

Jesus continually renews us with desire, with a zeal in our pilgrimage.  As one famous poet described it, With each step, desire came upon me, desire upon desire. [Dante]  Or as St. John says, from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace.  It is that well of living water that Christ promises, welling up in our hearts to eternal life, to eternal liveliness, ever renewing us inwardly – bringing true joy, and making us, necessarily, powerful witnesses to the world.

 

Let us pray for such a revival in our souls and in our parishes…

 

LORD of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of thy Name [that we might with all our desire reach out to touch you], increase in us true religion [not frenetic activity], nourish us with all goodness [by touching us inwardly with your very Body and Blood], and of thy great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen.

[The Collect for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity (with additions)]

 

 

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