Keep us Body and Soul Second Lent
ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lessons (see below): 1 Thessalonians iv. 1. & St. Matthew xv. 21
In today’s collect, we confess our inability to guard ourselves physical or spiritually, and beg God’s help to keep us whole. The collect clearly shows the concern with the body as well as the soul, and the two are ever related. The care of the outward, physical, person has a great deal to do with the health of the inward person. That which spots the physical person, harms the inward soul.
Paul in the epistle to the Thessalonians admonishes us to "abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour. When we give ourselves up to Christ, it is body and soul, and we must guard one as the other – for we are incorporate in the Body of Christ. How is it then that so many in the Church can accept those things which defile the body? It is a great puzzle to me how the Church itself turns its face from obvious uncleanness and evil. Let us look at two contemporary examples of major branches of the Church. The first is the Roman Catholic Church and the second is the Anglican Communion, most conspicuously in the Western world were both are racked by scandal.
The Roman Catholic Church recently released a study reporting over 4,000 priests sexually abusing over 10,000 children. Since this is self-reported it may be conservative, and the number of actual incidents is probably much higher. Those who committed the crimes were appointed specifically to guard their members against evil, and yet they perpetrated it. How could such a state of affairs have developed in a church that exercises such authority? It comes from a great deal of cover-up, passive acceptance of a homosexual sub-community within the church, and cowardliness. The church provided a ground where evil men could practice their perversions on innocent and unprotected children. How could this have been allowed? Because, as one nun has put it recently, the hierarchy was compromised as well. The only light in this is that maybe there will be reform in the RC Church, and the Church has not tried to justify or rationalize the crimes.
The Anglican Communion on the other hand, or rather parts of it, especially in the developed countries, has embraced homosexuality. It began with its "inclusiveness", and welcoming of those who were leading homosexual lifestyles. It departed from its traditional custom of exercising some control over who might take communion based on their lifestyle; and most recently, it undertook to redefine the whole concept of right relationships in human sexuality. It essentially ignored the Scripture and accepted activity which was clearly proscribed. Its leaders went further to even describe these relationships and those who engaged in them as "wholesome" and worthy to hold the highest offices in the Church. The Episcopal Church of the United States, by its acceptance of homosexuality, is teaching a new generation acceptance of a sin which the Bible says will condemnn one to everlasting damnation. Jesus in Matthew said:" But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and [that] he should be sunk in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of occasions of stumbling! for it must needs be that the occasions come; but woe to that man through whom the occasion cometh!"
A new generation of Episcopalians will learn tolerance and acceptance of this great sin, and many will stumble because of this teaching, and it will be because no one taught them the evil of this way. Instead they will learn that homosexuality is wholesome. This issue is not one limited to the ECUSA only, but every mainline Christian denomination will be under some pressure from the homosexual community and its supporters to adopt a similar position.
So, the question to you is where will you stand, who will you follow? Do you accept these activities proscribed by Scripture or will you follow Bible, the teaching that has guided Christians for 2,000 years and Jews for 4,000 years? Scripture tells us we must not accept the sinner, but rebuke him and call on him to repent and be saved. Will you passively accept these changes or will you have the courage to do the right thing: which may include praying for the Church, voicing your concerns to your elected officials, rebuking those who depart from this teaching, and training your children and grandchildren in the truth as expressed in the Scriptures.
We have a sickness in our society and the Church. In today’s Gospel, Jesus healed the Cannanite woman’s child on account of her persistence and faith. It is His will that we be whole and healthy, both physically and spiritually. He will heal us when we come to Him, confess our sins, repent, and ask for Him to heal our infirmities. He will heal the Church when it turns to Him.
Let us pray:
Lord God, our great Physician, send thy Holy Spirit to convict us when we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep; bring us back into the fold; purge and heal thy Holy Church from the infections that afflict it, that we may follow thy Holy commandments in truth and spirit, word and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
1 Thessalonians iv. 1. WE beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have fore-warned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.
St. Matthew xv. 21. JESUS went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
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