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The Third Sunday in Advent

Augustine on Psalm XCIV
Advent Three Home

LORD, we beseech thee, give ear to our prayers, and by thy gracious visitation lighten the darkness of our heart, by our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Source: Collect-Middle Ages-found in 1549 COE Prayer Book.

Psalms 52, 53 | 93, 94 , 1 Corinthians iv. 1   &  St. Matthew xi. 2

Homily of Augustine on Psalm XCIV

For the LORD will not fail his people; neither will he forsake his inheritance;
 Until righteousness turn again unto judgment: all such as are true in heart shall follow it. 

This week we will consider a portion of the Psalm 94, and the examination of Augustine.  Before we do however, please note today's collect, and its bidding, and also the appointed Epistle of 1 Cor iv, where Paul wrote, " he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts"  Do you see how this collect touches today's epistle.  Coincidentally, Paul's words concerning the judgment of the Lord in the final day is a central subject of Augustine's sermon. I encourage you to read it all, but be forewarned it is a long one. Should you tire, skip to paragraph 19 and hear Augustine as he encouraged his listeners in the 5th century

 Attend, that we may be in Christ's name brave Christians: the remainder of the Psalm is but a little, let us not be weary. For how can he be strong in doing, who faileth in hearing? The Lord will help us to expound unto you the remainder. Attend then

Let us then attend to one section that I think best captured some signs of  our times. Augustine wrote,

 "Until righteousness," he saith, "turn again unto judgment, and all they that have it are right in heart" (ver. 15). Listen now, and gain righteousness: for judgment thou canst not yet have. Thou shouldest gain righteousness first; but that very righteousness of thine shall turn unto judgment. The Apostles had righteousness here on earth, and bore with the wicked. But what is said unto them? "Ye shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Their righteousness therefore shall turn unto judgment. For whoever is righteous in this life, is so for this reason, that he may endure evils with patience: let him suffer patiently the period of suffering, and the day of judging cometh. But why do I speak of the servants of God? The Lord Himself, who is the Judge of all living and dead, first chose to be judged, and then to judge. Those who have righteousness at present, are not yet judges. For the first thing is to have righteousness, and afterwards to judge: He first endureth the wicked, and afterwards judgeth them. Let there be righteousness now: afterwards it shall turn again unto judgment. And so long He endureth wicked men, as God doth will, as long as God's Church shall endure them, that she may be taught through their wickedness. Nevertheless, God will not cast off His people, "all such as have it are right in heart." Who are those who are right in heart? Those whose will is the will of God. He spareth sinners: thou dost wish Him at once to destroy sinners. Thy heart is crooked and thy will perverted, when thy will is one way and the will of God another. God wisheth to spare sinners: thou dost not wish sinners spared. God is of long-suffering to sinners: thou dost not wish to endure sinners....Wish not to bend the will of God to thy will, but rather correct thy will to His. The will of God is like a rule: behold, suppose, thou hast twisted the rule: whence canst thou be set straight? But the rule itself continueth straight: for it is immutable. As long as the rule is straight, thou hast whither to turn thyself, and straighten thy perversity; thou hast a means of correcting what is crooked in thee. But what do men will? It is not enough that their own will is crooked; they even wish to make the will of God crooked according to their own heart, that God may do what they themselves will, when they ought to do that which God willeth.... 

What did he say? God's rule is immutable, it continues straight.  Post modern clerics preach a different Gospel. They will claim they hear a spirit telling them to ignore the words of the Apostles, and to rather listen to the spirit of the age who has truth. They will claim there is not truth, but truths according to one's understanding. They claim God is doing a new thing, as if they had access to the truth of God and 1,900 years of other Christians did not. They hear not, they will change not, but will glory in their crooked and perverse hearts. 

The Apostle says in today's epistle,  judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. These folk and those they lead may yet turn from sin. The Lord may set a light of truth in their hearts, and they may turn from attempting to corrupt and twist God's word. So we do not damn anyone; for the time will come when the Lord will judge all and will have mercy on those whom he chooses. In the meantime, every one who confesses the name of Christ needs to heed the words of Augustine, and seek righteousness now. That righteousness does not come from the will of man, but through God's merciful intercession as he lights our hearts. This is the catholic faith: hear Augustine's words from elsewhere in this sermon,

This then is the Christian doctrine: no man doeth anything well except by His grace. A man's bad acts are his own: his good he doth of God's bounty. When he hath begun to do well, let not him ascribe it unto himself: when he hath not attributed it to himself, let him give thanks to Him from whom he hath received it. But when he doeth well, let him not insult him who doth not as he doth nor exalt himself above him: for the grace of God is not stayed at him, so that it cannot reach another. 

LORD, we beseech thee, give ear to our prayers, and by thy gracious visitation lighten the darkness of our heart, by our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

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"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another" [St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans 14:19]


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