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Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

Holy Communion

Petite Riviere, Vogler’s Cove, West Dublin – August 10 AD 2008

2 Cor 3:4f    St. Mark 7:31f

 

Looking up to heaven, [Jesus] sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha,

that is, Be opened.  And straightway his ears were opened,

and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.

 

Do you desire more lively worship?  Are you wishing that we could change this or that in our service, and maybe then our worship will be more exciting, more of a draw?  I would like to suggest that although it’s important that we try to make our worship outwardly as beautiful as possible, and the words of our prayers as accurate as possible to give God glory, that what we are really hoping for is an inner change of heart that in our worship we might truly give glory to God and also know true joy.  And when this happens, inwardly, the words of our prayers begin to sparkle like so many gems, and our songs become spiritual songs transporting us to heavenly places.

 

How will this happen?

 

Our Epistle begins this morning with St. Paul reminding us what we’ve been learning…

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God. 

In Trinity season we’ve been reminded that without God’s help, our desire gets misdirected; that without God’s help we have no wisdom but are like beasts with no understanding; that without God’s help we take his gifts and try to make ourselves gods.

We are learning to place ourselves in His hands – praying to Him, asking him for forgiveness, asking for help, asking him for growth, for a new heart, for the kindling of our hearts into a glowing fire of love.

 

St. Paul speaks about what we can expect in an encounter with God in this new covenant in Christ.

 

He reminds us of what happened to Moses when he went into the Tabernacle to speak one on one with God – when he came out of the tent, the people saw that his face shone – they could not look upon his face because they were afraid of that glory, so he put a cloth, a veil over his face.  That was under the old covenant – the covenant of the Law – a sort of external gift – how to act outwardly, the 10 commandments – the basic laws that govern a just society. 

But, says St. Paul, if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away; how shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather (or more) glorious? 

 

Something greater is here that we receive in the new covenant in Christ – not just external rules to follow, but we receive the inward grace of the Holy Spirit to amend our hearts, to fill us with love – so that we glow not just outwardly, by conforming our lives outwardly to God’s law, but we shine inwardly, with the joy of a lover.  We had the example of Christ’s Transfiguration this past week (Aug 6) – his whole body was full of light, that even His clothing could not cover over – that is a foretaste of the glory we are promised.  (If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. Mt 6:22)

 

We should expect so much more than simply living normal lives outwardly conforming our lives to the good things of the law.  As Christians we become temples of the living God, as we look inwardly we discover the Spirit of God speaking within us, and we become filled with an inner joy.

 

What does this have to do with worship?

The more we are touched inwardly with the Holy Ghost, the more we are inspired to worship God – and to do this very publicly.

 

You know that it has been a part of my ministry to try to encourage worship in our churches more regularly – Sunday by Sunday at the least.  And you know that this has been part of the ministry of every priest who has come here, so I’m not suggesting something different – encouraging attendance even on a Sunday when church is not at your church.

 

It can be tiresome for me to repeat this call – but it would be wrong for me to be frustrated or angry with you for not all heeding the call.  [New Dublin – you have been heeding the call and we know the joy of worshipping with significantly greater numbers when we are together.]

 

If I get frustrated I am reminded about the passage where Jesus condemns the Pharisees:

But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children [the Pharisees] sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,  And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.  [Mt 11:16,17]

 

You see, the Pharisees wanted everybody to follow their religion – but the Pharisees didn’t even recognize John the Baptist or Jesus in their midst as being from God.  They had some idea of the religious duty that they were commanded to teach, yet they had lost the true meaning of their religion, they forgot that people must be taken up by love.

 

I could harp at you "until the cows come home", and it will make no difference to your pattern of worship, unless… unless somehow I convey to you the goodness of God and you fall in love with Him.  Unless I preach the good news in such a way that what is binding you is loosed, that you trust more in the mercy of God and so are infilled with gratitude and joy – unless this happens then my preaching is vain, and in vain.  We are all dependent upon the Holy Spirit to awaken our hearts and when He does, no encouragement to weekly worship is necessary, you might even be asking me for midweek services!

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The Gospel this morning is all about this…

 

There is a man who is deaf and had an impediment in his speech – he won’t come to Jesus, he’s afraid, maybe he lacks hope – surely he is embarrassed, held back, because every time he’s opened his mouth for years he’s been humiliated by others – he stuttered.

Others bring him to Jesus who took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat, and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.  And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. 

 

As we allow God, by His Spirit, to enter more fully into our souls, bringing to light our sins, that we may confess them, clearing away the blockages to His divine glory shining in us, something happens to us – the more we see Him, the more we are compelled by love, joy springs up in us and we want to give glory to the One who is All glorious – we cannot shut up about Him.  Like a person who is foolishly in love cannot hide from others the one they are in love with – they want to shout it from the roof tops or write it on billboards!

And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; and were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well; he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.

 

There are obstacles to our opening our mouths in praise.

 

One obstacle can be our uncertainty of forgiveness or a sense of unworthiness – but Jesus continually reassures us that He is for us!  (and our liturgy places before our minds again and again God’s mercy and love – think of the repeated comfortable words to reassure us)

 

Perhaps it is because our faith is weak – we are afraid to be witnesses in our families or in our society because when we have done so in the past, we have received scorn, or that slight mocking smile, as if we are fools.  We’re afraid to speak up, afraid that we might push others away or afraid perhaps that in the light of that mocking or scorn, the little faith we have will disappear – and we want to guard what is most precious to us.  Our faith is fragile, we don’t have the assurance to be bold.

 

But Jesus would have it otherwise for each of us.

 

In the very act of worship we discovery true joy – here we are made worthy, here, as we ask God to open thou our lips, we know a true and everlasting rest – here we discover spiritual pleasure, not at first with the same intensity as the pleasures we derive from the senses, but in time even our senses are taken up in worship – but it is of a different quality – it is not a cloying pleasure but a serene and everlasting true pleasure.

 

In the Holy Communion we are touched inwardly by the bread of heaven – like the fiery coal that touched Isaiah’s mouth – so that he who was afraid that he was lost in God’s presence because he knew himself to be a man of unclean lips, became the prophet of God [Isa 6].  And God would have us all be prophets in a sense, to go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways [from the Benedictus].

 

If we are not experiencing a desire, even a joyful compulsion to worship God – let us take ourselves apart from the multitudes – as did the deaf and dumb man.  Let us pray that Jesus might touch us inwardly by the Holy Ghost and we will no doubt with those crowds that surrounded Jesus that day be beyond measure astonished, as we are infilled with His love, saying, He hath done all things well; he maketh both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.

 

Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and art wont to give more than we desire or deserve: Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.  Amen.

[The Collect for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity]

 

 

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