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; 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; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Readings below: St. James i. 17. St. John xvi. 5.
Fix your heart on Jesus
In a mixed-up world where what is seemingly and Scripturally wrong is declared right, and where a permissive culture speaks of the necessity to employ situational ethics as a standard rather than an exception, today’s collect is especially beneficial to the believers. In this chaotic state where ancient values are discarded as rubbish, our collect tells us that God alone can order the unruly wills of men. To strengthen ourselves, we need only to look to God’s Holy Word for our comfort. By fixing our hearts on His Word and Commandments, we will find true joy, peace, and the Comfort of his Spirit.
St. James tells us that by focusing on His Word, and receiving it into our hearts, souls, and minds, that we shall be saved. God has given us his commandments because he loves us. He wishes us to live a good and full life, free of sin and worry. The way to that peaceful state is through the Word of God, the Word made flesh, Jesus the Christ. In every circumstance then, St. James admonishes us to exercise patience and faith.
He says to be swift to hear. That is being a good listener. Listen first and foremost to the Word of God -- God’s good gift to us, unchanging, immutable, and true. Hear that Word, understand it, believe it, and make it a part of your very being engrafted into your soul. Second, listen to the voices around you and evaluate them. Do the voices complement God’s Word? Do they magnify His Glory? Do they reveal the Wisdom of God, or the wisdom of man? Do the voices stand in contradiction to His commandments?
St James also tells us we should be slow to speak. This advice parallels the advice of the wise men of old in the wisdom writings such as Proverbs. By holding our tongues and our judgements, we may better hear the truth. By exercising patience we open our hearts to the Spirit of Truth. As St John says in today’s Gospel, he will show you things to come, he will guide you in all Truth, for the Holy Spirit speaks the Will and Wisdom of God Almighty and thereby glorifies the risen Christ
Finally, St. James tells us to be slow to wrath, and that the wrath of man works unrighteousness. Our anger is more likely to lead us into sin. We are likely to act and speak in ways when we are angry that we will later regret. Again, the secret is to "wait on the Lord." He is all powerful, all knowing, and through his Holy Spirit he will guide the righteous in what they should do. As the Gospel says, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement.
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, whose will is that we should find Joy in this life, Grant that we may fix our hearts on Jesus, and depend on the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us, through Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and evermore. Amen
Hymn: Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
The Epistle. St. James i. 17.
EVERY good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
The Gospel. St. John xvi. 5.
JESUS said unto his disciples, Now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
keep watch over the door of my lips!
Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies!
Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it.
Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.
When their judges are thrown over the cliff,
then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant.
As when one plows and breaks up the earth,
so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol.
But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord;
in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!
Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me
and from the snares of evildoers!
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I pass by safely.
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