TRINITY XVI – Miserere mihi
Introit: (Ps 86) Be merciful unto me, O Lord, for I call daily upon thee: for thou, O Lord, art good and gracious, and plenteous in thy mercy unto all them that call upon thee. Ps. Bow down thine ear, O Lord, and hear me: for I am poor and in misery. Glory be … Be merciful unto me …
Collect: O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church: and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
OT Lesson: And Hannah prayed, and said: My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxen feeble. The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them. (I Samuel 2.1-8)
Gradual: (Ps 102) The heathen shall fear thy Name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy majesty. V. When the Lord shall build up Sion: and when his glory shall appear.
Epistle: Brethren: I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (Ephesians 3.13-21)
Alleluia. Ye that fear the Lord, put your trust in the Lord: He is their helper and defender. Alleluia.
The Holy Gospel: At that time: Jesus went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier; and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on all, and they glorified God, saying, That a great Prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about. (St Luke 7.11-17)
A Sermon by Dr. Wayne Hankey
University of King’s College, Halifax
from COMMON PRAYER, Volume Six: Parochial Homilies for the Eucharist
St. Peter Publications Inc., Charlottetown, PEI, 1987.
“Jesus had compassion on her.” (Luke 7.13)
We are all trying to live lives pleasing to Almighty God, to do his will, to walk in his ways and keep his commandments. The fact that you are here this morning allows me to assume such a good will in you all. It is our good will that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, but what endless problems and difficulties we encounter in trying to do what both we and God really want.
Endless troubles plague us; we are assaulted from within and without. There are old bad habits and the new temptations and all the things that distract the soul as it tries to centre itself on God. There is either the business of life or the resentment that arises from sloth, boredom and laziness. There is worry and anxiety about oneself or the ones we love. A child goes the wrong way; we face the fear of pain and disease; we suffer the doubts and hopeless loneliness caused by death; and we experience distress about what others may do to us and fear about what may befall us. The sickening nagging of old guilt from some sin for which we never forgive ourselves and the constant battle with all our sins are always with us. The things which trouble us and keep us from joyful restful union with God, from confidence and assurance that we are safe with him, seem endless. And so we ask what help is there for those of us engaged in this unrelenting and wearying battle?
Today, the good news of God to us is just this: he knows our troubles of every kind. He knows also that we cannot continue without his help and so he reaches out to remind us that his compassion and his love shown in Jesus are there to embrace, help, and lift us up in every circumstance of our lives, in all times and in all places. In troubles both great and small, his continued pity cleanses and defends his people so as to keep them safe.
The Gospel tells us the pathetic situation of a certain widow. We see her only son carried out of the city — like Jesus — on the way to his grave. Such a scene must always arouse pity in us mortals. We imagine her left altogether without support. Knowing how much we need the strength, help, and companionship of others, our hearts go out to her. But what of God? He dwells above the heaven of heavens, in light inaccessible which no eye hath seen nor can see. He is perfectly self-sufficient. He has neither birth nor death, and nothing can touch or affect him. What can such a God know of or how can he care about the troubles of the widow of Nain? But the Gospel says:
When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said unto her: Weep not. And he came and touched the bier . . .and he said ‘Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.’ And he that was dead sat up . . . and Jesus delivered him to his mother.
God does indeed dwell above the heavens and there he is not to be touched by our storming strength or the folly that would build towers to assault him; but he is moved by his own infinite love. He declares that love for us in Jesus and, in Jesus, God has compassion, suffering with his people, and pitying them in every weakness and trial. He reaches out to touch the bed of death on which we helplessly lie in order to comfort us. He raises us up by giving us knowledge of his love and mercy. The good news of this morning’s Gospel is that the God of all might and power, whom we can never hold by our miserable force, reaches out in love and, by his Son Jesus, binds himself to us. He is touching the bed on which we lie helpless, but we must “stand still” to perceive it so that he can lift us up.
St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians is concerned lest their knowledge of the things he is suffering at the hands of men should cause them to fall into doubt. The Gospel has confronted us with the assaults of nature, whose last power over us is death, “the last enemy.” (1 Corinthians 15.26) There we see a “dead man carried out, the only son of his mother.” And we see also the compassion of the Lord, the Lord who would himself die so as to suffer all things with us. In the Epistle, Paul is confronting us with the evils men can inflict on one another. He tells us that the love and pity of God in Christ reaches out to embrace us and help us in these troubles also. Indeed his message is that the love of God in Christ Jesus reaches everywhere; it extends to every “breadth and length and depth and height.” As he tells us in another place, he is persuaded:
That neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8.38, 39).
Jesus not only died but he died in virtue of the cruel torture of men. He was betrayed by his friends, mocked, spitted upon, beaten, and finally crucified. He gave himself into “the hands of men.” (Luke 9.44) And the love of God embraces us even there. God’s strength is sufficient for us no matter where we are. We are to give him thanks and praise in all times and places because he reaches out to help, comfort, and lift us up in them all.
St. Paul also tells us how God reaches us in all these times and places, in the assaults both of man and nature. God, he says, “strengthens us with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” The manner of his coming to us is knowledge and love. Because God dwells in our “hearts by faith,” we are supposed to “comprehend” the extent of God’s love. We are “to know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge.” This is how we are “filled with all the fullness of God.” The good news of Jesus is that it is not what happens to us from without that can hurt us — “fear not them who can destroy the body” as he says (Matthew 10.28) — it is not what goes into your mouth that can hurt you (Matthew 15.11). What harms us is from within; this is the root of the will to sin. From inside arise doubt, fear, hatred, envy, and ambition. It is here that God must perform his healing acts.
This morning God shows his mercy to his Church in a wonderful way. For just as he sent his Son into the world to assume flesh and blood and to suffer the worst from man so as to heal us within by the knowledge of his love, so also … in the Blessed Sacrament, he comes continually to cleanse and defend his Church. He gives an inward benefit and healing by an outward and visible sign, by bread broken and a cup poured out. Let us pray that we may so find therein the compassion, pity and love of God that we may be strengthened to serve him all our days. Finally, may we by his mercy praise forever Father, Son, and Spirit to whom belongs all praise, dominion and strength, now and in eternity. Amen.
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A Sermon by the Rt. Revd. Michael W. Hawkins
Bishop of Saskatchewan
Trinity XVI 2003
O God we are not pure, we are not safe, and we are not competent, so in your mercy, cleanse, defend and guide your Church through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Faint not, weep not. These are things we all avoid, and we make special effort not to do them publicly – and especially not in Church. If it is any comfort, I have managed very public displays, in large services, of both fainting and weeping. Faint not, weep not. These exhortations from both Paul and Jesus are spoken to people who were overwhelmed by sorrow and distress. The Christians in Ephesus had heard of all Paul’s troubles and his imprisonment, and he is worried that they will be overcome by grief at this horrible news. Faint not. Jesus meets a most destitute woman, having lost her husband. She had one only son, and now this day she must bury him, and with him all her hopes and her comforts. Weep not. Neither fainting nor crying are things which it seems we have complete control over. So there must be something more here, some basis on which we can be exhorted not to faint or weep.
The ground of these similar exhortations, to not be overcome by grief and sorrow, is the same. It is that God himself, in the person of his Son, has come into the world. He has visited his people, seen their sorrows, and had compassion on them. He has entered into their sorrows and even into death, in his own passion and cross. And he has risen again, triumphant over darkness and sorrow, sin and death, and has thus saved them.
The Epistle and the Gospel are, in this sense, devotional commentaries on the incarnation and the cross, the suffering and death of the Son of God, for us and for our salvation. Jesus meets this woman outside the city, where he, too, would be led to die and be buried, where he commanded the daughters of Jerusalem to weep not. He commands her to weep not, who would himself weep, and become the man of sorrows.
Our Lord stops the funeral procession of humanity about to be buried in silence, darkness and hopelessness. And he touches the coffin, which ought to make him unclean, but which will cleanse the dead man, and he commands with one word, “Arise.” This word is spoken by the authority of Jesus, who is both God and man. He is God, by whose word the heavens and earth were made. And he is man, the first begotten of the dead, who was alive and dead, and is now alive for evermore, and who has then by his victory over sin and death, taken the keys of hell and of death. Jesus Christ raises this man from death, by the power of his own innocent death and resurrection. He can say, “Arise,” for he will die, be buried, descend into Hades, and rise again for him. Isaiah 26.19 says, “Thy dead shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise.” So our Lord prophesies in John 5.25: “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” This is our hope.
But soon at break of day
His calm almighty voice,
Stronger than death shall say,
Awake, – arise, – rejoice.
[Hymn #625: “Hush! Blessed are the dead.” E. H. Bickersteth, 1873]
But there is more in that Gospel, for we have that most touching and reassuring phrase, that Jesus “delivered him to his mother.” Those who were once divided by the narrow stream of death are reunited, in Christ and by Christ. This, too, is our hope in Christ.
Weep not, for Jesus Christ is Lord of both the dead and the living, and he has won the victory over all our enemies. He has won the victory over our last enemy, death, and he shall finally destroy it. And faint not. Don’t despair; don’t be overwhelmed by sorrow and disappointment. Paul offers this wonderful prayer for the Ephesians. He speaks of bowing his knees, apparently this was becoming in many ways a distinctive Christian posture for prayer, on one’s knees. What does he pray for? Renewal in the gift of the Holy Spirit. For it is by the inner gift of the Holy Spirit that we are strengthened. Remember his title, Comforter, which means he fortifies us. Comfort, in this sense, means to make strong. Comfort is to strengthen inwardly, make us strong in our inner being. It is by the Holy Spirit that Christ abides in us. It is by the Holy Spirit that this love is poured into our hearts. It is by the Holy Spirit that God fills us with himself.
The presence of Christ, in our hearts; the love of Christ, in its infinite dimensions; and the power of Christ, at work in us – this is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul speaks of our being rooted and grounded in this divine love. We are to be like trees, firmly rooted and anchored in the love of God. We are to be like houses, built upon the foundation of God’s love for us in Christ. Then we will not faint. Why not? For the love of God having been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, and we knowing by faith Christ who died and rose again for us, will be persuaded and will prove that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. What is the breadth and length and depth and height of this love? “Look how high the heaven is in comparison of the earth, so great is his mercy also toward them that fear him. Look how wide also the east is from the west, so far hath he set our sins from us.” (Psalm 103.11-12) The mysterious dimensions Paul gives must be, above all else, those of the cross of Jesus Christ.
There is infinite forgiving love, and there is eternal life. The Gospel, which you are invited to believe today, is that God can do more that you can conceive or dare ask. It was most certainly true for the widow of Nain, it has been true in my life over and over again, and it is supremely true in the incarnation and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in the gift of the Holy Spirit. So what is left? Nothing but this for ever: “Unto him that is able to do exceeding above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end.” Amen.
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Collect: 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, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of thy great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
And may the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord: and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen.