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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Let this Mind be in You

Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
Palm Sunday, March 29, 2010

We hope and pray that this Lent, your Lent, has been productive and rewarding, yielding some spiritual fruit. After all, this is what Lent is all about, preparing your soul for the upcoming Paschal Joy.

Now, we are on the threshold of another church season.  Without, we pray, overstating the obvious, it is the season that defines Christianity, We are now preparing, in earnest, for the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are getting ready for that spiritually rich and blessed season of Easter. While materially poor when compared with Christmas, it is the more blessed of the seasons simply because it is the raison d’etre for Christianity, its very reason to be.

Yet, we are not here to preach an Easter sermon.  Not yet. While we “strain in the harness”, so to speak, as we press forward towards the blessed Resurrection , it is not yet time.  Today, we deal with the whole, nasty, business of the mock trial of Christ, his betrayal into the hands of sinful, expedient men, and the subsequent, merciless, torture-death inflicted on our Lord.  We read about the “prisoner swap” of Barabbas for Jesus, the just for the unjust feel the burning injustice of it all.  Perhaps we can almost feel our throats burn with hoarseness from shouting, as we fancy ourselves part of the faithful crowd that cried out for Jesus’ release. The coarse mob would have none of it; but, being lashed into a frenzy by the Scribes and Pharisees, they bellowed for Jesus’ death.

We know the rest of the story.  Christ, who had been scourged with the heartless Roman whips, whose ends were laden with sharp metal, was virtually on the point of walking unconsciousness.  How brutal…. Now, Christ was led to the Praetorium to undergo further degradation. He was arrayed in a gorgeous royal robe and mocked by the band of hard Roman soldiers. These were career legionnaires, who had signed up for a single thirty-year hitch, after which they would be pensioned off with land and money. So, why not? They had some cruel fun with this prisoner, this so-called King.

Thus, a mock pageant of adoration began, as the soldiers both mocked Christ and pummeled Him.  Before all this however, the King needed a crown. In a sadistic turn of satanic ingenuity, the soldiers platted a crown of long, sharp Palestinian thorns for Jesus.  This crown they bestowed on Him, not gently laying it on His head for a king, but forcing it down with brute force, as for a usurper of kingly glory. Imagine how the blood flowed! Those of us who have had even a minor scalp wound know.  
Now, not only from his torn and tattered back, lashed with 39 stripes, but from His head flowed the precious liquid.  Ah, Sacred Head, sore wounded!

Although Matthew’s Gospel does not tell of it, from historic devotions such as the Stations of the Cross, we believe that Christ fell three times on his way to the cross.  Weak from loss of blood, fasting and thirsty, he simply couldn’t bear the weight of it.   Simon of Cyrene was compelled to bear his cross for Him.

Now, we come to the Cross.  Christ is stripped before the gaze of the rude crowd; Rough hands drive spikes into his hands or wrists and then into his feet. He is elevated on the cross and there he hung, in speechless agony.  Countless muscle cramps afflicted him, and each agonizing breath required him to press upward on his wounded feet to obtain air.  In every way, this barbarous execution method was an amazing odyssey of pain.  He did this for all of us, for you. It was his hard joy so to do.

This brings us to the topic of St. Paul’s Epistle selection for the day from Philippians 2.  St. Paul tells us Christ humbled himself, and was made like unto us, by sharing in our human nature.  However, stated like this, Christ’s uniqueness is understated.  Christ did not only share in our human nature, He took Humanity into His Divinity.  The human did not become divine, but rather the divine took on humanity. How glorious is this humility!  Christ deigned to lay aside his divine power so He could taste death, real human death for all of us.  Some translations say that He “emptied” himself as He did this, yet in no way did He become any less divine in so doing. The Greek word for this is keno,w,, “to empty.” One heresy said that Christ laid aside his divinity completely during the Passion and was merely human.  Later, this heresy claimed, Christ reassumed His Divinity to rise from the dead.  Suffice it to say that this is totally erroneous and does violence to the dual-nature doctrine of Christ.

One of the mysterious and glorious aspects of the Crucifixion is that the God-Man, Jesus Christ, did consent to suffer and die upon the Cross for us.  If Christ were not God, He could not take on the sins on mankind on the Cross.  If He were not fully Man, the sacrifice would not have been efficacious.

We do not debate either point.  We know that Jesus Christ, perfect Man and Perfect God, suffered and died on the Cross for us.  We do not fully understand, nor are we able to comprehend, the profundity of the Holy Sacrifice. Yet, we take God at His Word and accept it, humbly. We fall before His Cross, speechless and prostrate, ovecome by Love.

Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name”[1]  Christ’s glory is such that all living things should reverence and worship Him, to the exclusion of all else. 
To Christ belong all glory, laud, and honor.  All things in Heaven and Earth should bow at His mention and do him reverence.  This is why we slightly bow our heads at the name of Jesus. This is not mere affectation; it is giving honor and glory to Him who is most deserving.

There will come a day when all eyes shall see Him, as he returns with glory. Much of mankind, the godless and the faithless, will look up and “mourn” as they behold Christ’s glory in the skies. They will see their world coming to an end. Real, eternal judgment is about to proceed on them.

On the other hand, the faithful and the godly, anticipating Christ’s appearance, will look up and give thanks.  Fearful it will be, yet the faithful will look up and say, “My Lord and my God.”

This is what Palm Sunday is all about.  We recognize the price paid for us.  We recognize that Christ hung there for us.  We recognize, in silent adoration, that Christ’s love for us is the reason.

Let us begin Holy Week with this in mind.  As we have borne with it in Lent, for one more week we must bear our own iniquity. While unable to justify ourselves, we can at least say: Christ did this for me.

Philippians 2:9-11  “ that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth,  11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”                                                                                                  

Glory be to God the Father, and to God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, now and forever.   AMEN



[1] Phil. 2:9

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Children of Promise 2015



Fourth Sunday of Lent 2015
“The Children of Promise…”
Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
March 15, 2015


Good Morning!  I pray you are having a blessed Lent, as we prepare our hearts and souls for the world’s most singular moment: the celebration of the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ resurrection is the culmination of a grand theme that God revealed to man through His Son.  That theme, prevalent this Sunday, is one of promise and Grace, reflected by The Collect for the Day and the Epistle from Galatians IV.  Allow me to repeat the key phrase from the Collect:  the “comfort of thy grace.”

There are a wide variety of meanings for “grace”, but let us consider these two: first, The Gift of God to humankind.  This means the infinite love, mercy, favor, and goodwill shown to humankind by God. The second corollary to this is: Freedom from sin. In Christianity, this means the condition of being freed from or restrained from sin by confession and repentance to God.

In light of the Collect, both of these definitions make sense.  We, who do deserve to be punished when compared to the ultimate, perfect holiness of God, are most graciously “relieved” through God’s infinite love for us.  Using the second definition as well, we are freed from sin in and through Jesus Christ.

In light of the Epistle from Galatians, St. Paul expounds further on this concept of grace.  He uses the term “promise” to indicate the certainty of our life in God. Just as Abraham received his promise from God in his heir, Isaac, so we receive the promise of God to us in the form of eternal life.

In the epistle for today, it’s important to recognize that St. Paul was not merely engaging in pleasant philosophical discussions about grace, salvation, promise, etc. We know that he was fighting for the infant Church’s very survival.  We know that he grappled with all of the issues we face today, but to a much larger degree.  In the case of the Galatians, he was exhorting them to stay true to the Gospel, and was trying to deflect the specious and erroneous doctrines put forth by a group called the Judaizers.  This group literally shadowed his steps as he planted churches. They had the goal of turning new Christians away from Christ, back to the whole lot of Jewish ceremonial law, including circumcision. Only in this way, they preached, could one be a devout follower of Jesus. 

 Much of the Epistle to the Galatians is devoted to the denial of this heresy. To do this, St. Paul developed an allegory, using Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar, was born when the promised heir failed to appear according to Abraham’s timetable. Thus, they tried to force the issue by producing a child through Hagar, Sarah’s maid.  

Yet, we know that God is not frustrated. In due time, Isaac appeared, the true, long-awaited son of Sarah and Abraham. He was the child of promise. Ishmael, the child of man’s design, would become the father of the Arab nations and would be a great man in his own right. Yet, he was not the legitimate heir of Abraham. He was cast out from Abraham’s family.

St. Paul’s point is this: Hagar and Ishmael stand for Mt. Sinai, where the Jews received the law from God, the Old Covenant.  At first, a good thing, but over time the Law became so complicated and so convoluted that is served no other purpose but to remind man how sinful he was.  Being perverted by the Jewish priestly class’ endless additions to it, the Law grew to be a stringent instrument of negativity and spiritual death. It was a law of bondage.

On the other hand, Sarah and Isaac represent the New Covenant, symbolized by Jerusalem.  This is the gospel of promise and of comfort.  St Paul says it is much more fruitful than the old, producing many spiritual offspring.  Thus, while Hagar symbolizes Ishmael and the bondage of the Law, Sarah symbolizes Isaac: promise and freedom. 

This goes to the very heart of what we can glean from Scripture today. Basically, the question is this: are we as Christians bound by the Law, or are we free in Christ by the Gospel? That is, to what degree are we to be bound up in legalism and outward norms of behavior versus the liberating effect of the Holy Spirit on the human heart? In short, are we to have no other law but “to love one another”, as Christ commanded us?

This is a very difficult question. To answer the question, are we bound by Law or freed by Gospel, the answer is yes.  It is not a situation of either/or but both/and. 

We are bound by Law in the Church, but not to the death-giving law of the rabbis. They sought to regulate and protect the pious Jew from any chance of pollution by sin. Yet, it was impossible to keep the Law, and as St. Paul tells us, the Law could only remind us how sinful we were.

Yet, we Christians do strive to keep a very important part of the old Law. Our basic law is the Ten Commandments.  This is the roadmap for our journey in life and the Christian’s modus operandi.

However, if this were all the instructions we had in life, our journey would be barren indeed. The Commandments are too sterile and too basic by themselves to be completely fulfilling.  That is why Christ added the great “law of love” to the commandments, from John 13:34: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” 

This is the “flesh and bones” that Christ added to the Ten Commandments.  We are to follow the Commandments, yes, but we are to do it with love.  That is the difference.  While we Christians are bound by law, both secular and sacred, we are to adhere to these norms with love, not by legalism.

St. Paul echoes this in Romans 13:8 “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law”; and in Romans 13:9-10:  “For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” 

Love is the universal constant here. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came, as he said, not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. As such, Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect Man, is the living bridge between the Testaments. Foretold in the Old, revealed in the New, He is God the Father’s last, best, and complete testimony to mankind. Christ and only Christ could both preach and practice perfect love. Not only in his acts of healing and kindness, but in his monumental, complete Atonement on the Cross. This is most excellent expression of love ever proclaimed.

This brings us full circle, back to the concept of grace and promise.  Jesus has promised us eternal life with Him. We are “inheritors” and “joint heirs” of the Kingdom of Heaven.  This makes us Christians the most blessed of all people, as we look for our full consummation  in Heaven, glorifying and praising God for ever and ever. This is glorious.  This is wonderful.  It is God’s free gift to us and it is His promise to us as Christians.

Thus, are we bound by law or freed by Gospel….?  The answer is…Yes.

GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lent, Faith, and Persistence



2nd Sunday in Lent 2015
Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
March 1st, 2015

Mat 15:22 :  “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.”

Our Gospel selection casts our Lord in a familiar light. We see him in his traditional role of itinerant preacher, traveling from place to place. In this case, we are told, ”Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.”[1] Thus, the Light departed from the Jews and was manifested to us Gentiles, in a figurative way, as Christ journeyed and preached in Tyre of Phoenicia and Sidon, a city not very far from Syria.[2] As so often happened in His journeys, an opportunity arose in which He manifested forth His glory, from which we are to derive some edification.

Our Gospel selection for the day is one of glory and of puzzlement.  Why? It is glorious in that Jesus heals a woman’s daughter, miraculously, from a distance. In that, it reminds us of the healing of the centurion’s servant in Mat. 8:13, that also occurred from far away, and that of the healing of the nobleman’s son, in John 4:49.

All of these marvelous happenings came about because Jesus spoke with authority, causing the evil influences to flee away. Just as Christ spoke Creation into existence, in this instance we see Him speaking health and healing. In the same manner, He will speak again at the Last Day, when he will separate the faithful from those who have enshrined their own gods in their hearts and have rejected Him. That will be a fateful and decisive speech, as it will be the final act in the play we call life on Earth.

Recalling Shakespeare’s lines from “As You Like It”, the character Jacques says:

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.[3]

In this case, the chief actors in the Gospel scene are Our Lord and the Canaanite woman, with the Disciples playing a supporting role. What a fascinating and instructive scene it is! As we have mentioned, this gospel is glorious, but also puzzling for a number of reasons.  On the surface, chief among these must be the curious reply he made to the Canaanite woman, as well as his overall indifference to her. We marvel at it because, on the surface, it seems so totally out of Jesus’ character.

As the story unfolds, it doesn’t seem likely that Christ gives her even scant notice. In fact, at first He totally ignores her. This continues to the point where even His disciples beseech Him to send her away, for they are obviously piqued at her persistence and importunity. One commentator took this as a positive sign, as in “Send her away with a blessing, but just send her away.”[4]  Perhaps, but this may be too rosy a view.  We believe that they just wanted to be rid of her.

Yet she couldn’t just give up and leave. Similar to the blind beggar of Luke 23, who had so much need that he cried out the more, so it is with this woman. We parents know how terrible a thing it is when our children are sick or injured.  How much worse if your child was “grievously vexed” by a demon?  Would not all of us earnestly seek all avenues of relief?

Yet, Christ seems to rebuff even his own disciples, when he says,I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”[5] At first glance, it would seem that his actions, His very being where He was physically, belied His speech.  Yet, that is not for us to debate.  We know that Christ was sent primarily to the Jews and that we Gentiles are “grafted” into the tree of life by proxy, as it were.  For this, we give thanks and praise.

The woman’s faith is such that she kneels at Jesus’ feet. She worships him and simply says, “Lord, help me.” Despite her obvious faith and humility, Christ tests her further by telling her: “It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.”[6] In short, the blessings of the covenant family are not for those outside the vail of grace.  This is a stinging and seemingly harsh rebuke. In effect, Christ asks, “Why should I consider you, a stranger and a member of an outcast nation, to receive any blessing from my hand?”

Her response is both clever and humble.  She turns our Lord’s statement around in this respect: instead of allowing herself to be considered as one of a pack of wild, hungry dogs, she equates herself to one of the household  pets, to whom one might slip a morsel under the table.  She does this by saying: “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.”[7] Just as our pets depend on us for daily food and even for an occasional treat slipped under the table, so she acknowledges and includes herself under the Lordship of Christ.

By any account, it is an amazing declaration.  Christ now turns to her and says, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.
And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”[8]  His testing done, Christ makes the pronouncement of healing and blessing.

This wonderful passage, as glorious at it is, raises our questions as well as our wonder. How could Christ act this way?  How could He be so seemingly callous?  What can we learn from this? Most importantly, what is the lesson we can glean from this passage?

First, was Jesus really ignoring the woman?  Did He hear the words of His disciples “to send her away, for she crieth after us?”

For answer, let us ask ourselves one question…is this type of behavior typical of Christ?  He was both perfect God and Man and as such, perfectly consistent in both natures, simultaneously.  If God’s nature is that of perfect love, which we believe and accept, does not this mean that His “ears”, so to speak, are always open to our pleas? Would not this mean that such a heartfelt appeal as that of the Canaanite woman could not be rejected or even ignored? Thus, we believe, one must reject the idea that Christ was dismissive or even remotely hard-hearted. It is inconsistent with His very nature. This not being the case, He must have had some other motive. 

Let us consider this. Was He testing her faith?  Was He seeing if this Canaanite woman would subject herself to the superior spiritual position of the Jew? Was he, in short, calling on her to persist in faith?  Very possibly this was the case.  Turning to John Calvin, he thought that God Himself was calling the woman into a closer relationship with Him through this situation. [9] In effect, her persistence was itself God-given, as a way not only to heal her daughter, but also to have her embrace a new spiritual reality in her life. Thus, Christ tested her in order to draw her closer to Him.

How often do we confront God through difficulty! Or rather, how often does He confront us with His absolute Sovereignty and unlimited Mercy through difficulty? Through difficulty, through trials, and through tribulations, we learn of both these divine and mysterious qualities.  If we allow ourselves to be led and instructed by the Spirit of God, we become teachable by God. After being tempered by the Holy Spirit, we may at last come to that point where we, like the Canaanite woman, allow ourselves to be subsumed into the mysterious and omnipotent Will of God.  It is at this point that we may bow our heads and say, “Thy Will be done”; even if that Will is difficult for us at that time.  Even though we don’t understand, we submit ourselves to it, even giving thanks for it, as hard as that may be.

The question is, through persistence and faith, will we be like this person, who allowed herself to be caught up by, enveloped, and ultimately rewarded by the Omnipotent, yet Merciful Will of God?  Will we respond like her and persist in our journey towards holiness?  In short, will we enjoy the fruits of being in the covenant family?

This is our choice, this Lent. Let us respond to the circumstances and experiences of Lent to draw closer to God.  Let us acknowledge our state as those spiritually dependent souls who are unable to live well without Him. Let us take this opportunity to shed our spiritual and emotional “baggage” in order that we may grow closer to Him.  Finally, let us allow ourselves to be rewarded with the wonderful presence of God, daily, in our lives.

This is our opportunity.  Now is the accepted time for penitence, for growth, and for reward.      AMEN


[1] Matt 15:21
[2] Henry, Matthew, Commentary on Matthew 15:21
[3] Shakespeare, William,  “As You Like It”, Act 2, Scene 7, http://www.enotes.com/shakespeare-quotes/all-world-s-stage
[4] Henry, Matthew, Commentary on Matthew 15
[5] Matt. 15:24
[6] Matt 15:26
[7] Ibid 15:27
[8] Matt 15:28
[9] op.cit. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom32.ii.xlvii.html

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Grace, Favor and Our Response




1st Sunday in Lent 2015
Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
F eb. 22, 2015

From the Epistle selection for the day from the Holy Communion lectionary, we read in 2 Corinthians 6:1: “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” 

With this scripture in mind, what is grace?  It is something all of us speak of, maybe without grasping the whole meaning of it, if that is possible. In my own case, the term came up one year at the family dinner table, as my parents debated its meaning.  At the time, being young and somewhat rebellious, I thought it complete nonsense.  That is, why should anyone spend valuable time discussing such a nebulous thing? Grace? What is grace? 

Well, looking back on that conversation, now many, many years in the past, I am struck by my foolishness and what’s more, my sheer spiritual deadness at the time. In simple terms, I just didn’t “get it.”  In fact, my obstinacy really had the savor of death about it, rather than the sweet-smelling savor of Christ.  As I look back on it, I have to say that there are some benefits of age. One of them is to marvel how foolish one was when young.

What then, is grace? One source gives us these definitions:
  • Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people.
  • The state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God.
  • An excellence or power granted by God.[1]
Another source says that “Grace in this (Christian) context is something that is God-given, made possible only by Jesus Christ and none other. It is God's gift of salvation granted to sinners for their salvation”.  Also: “The Christian teaching is that grace is unmerited mercy that God gave to us by sending his son to die on a cross, to give us eternal salvation.”[2]
Grace is certainly all of these things.  It seems that St. Paul has a particular concern that this excellence, this power, and this favor granted by God is not  received in vain, or said another way, wasted.  To emphasize his point, the apostle Paul paraphrases a line from the 48th chapter of Isaiah when he says,” I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

The concept of grace is clear in this passage, as he speaks about the help, succor, and salvation of God extended to His people. Thus, we learn from this that God  helps us, loves us and cares deeply for us. How should we respond?

Let’s look at two examples of our response to grace from the Holy Scriptures.  First, in the Epistle selection appointed for this Sunday, St. Paul speaks of his positive response to grace.  This can be summarized in his toleration of sufferings, stripes, imprisonments, tumults, and labors.  In a less violent way, he has fasted, been pure, taken knowledge by the Holy Ghost, expressed genuine love, and has spoken the word of truth.  Also, he has known the power of God, has taken up the armor of righteousness, has had both honor and dishonor given to him, and has even been accused of being a deceiver.  Finally, although chastened, he still lives and though he experiences sorrow, he can always rejoice.  He is poor, yet he dispenses riches to many.  He has nothing, yet he possesses all things.

If this is not a complete response to grace, then what is?  He has seen and felt the worst the world has put upon him, yet he is joyful. Paul has allowed grace to fill him completely, even to the point that he withstands all of these things. 

On the other hand, we also have a negative example of the response to grace given us from the First Lesson from Isaiah appointed for Ash Wednesday.  Here, we may see the concern of St. Paul coming to light.  Isaiah 58 clearly shows us how the favored people of God have responded to grace. Here we have the Chosen People of God, who are the very ones who received the Law and Prophets, acting in a way that does not bring them favor in the eyes of God.  Isaiah speaks of a people who act as if they truly delight in knowing God and following his laws. The people act as if they want to approach God and be his people.  Evidently, they work very hard at it by fasting, worshipping and sacrificing.  Yet they wonder why God seems to take no notice of all their religiosity.  All of their effort in looking holy seems to be for nothing.

Indeed. The prophet tells us the whole affair is a sham.  They fast, not to heard by God or be acknowledged by Him, but for contention and strife.  Fasting actually gives them pleasure because they can feel holy and self-righteous while doing it.  All of their religion is to look good before God, while they do what they want to do. The New American Standard translation makes this very clear as it says:  Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, and drive hard all your workers.” They are tough, demanding employers who ask too much of their employees. Also, keep in mind that many Israelites also prayed to pagan gods and goddesses while they were performing Temple worship.

To top it off, this is not the fast God had in mind.  Outward manifestations of holiness and self-imposed physical afflictions are not what God wanted from his people.  Instead, he wanted a fast from unrighteousness and from wickedness.  He wanted his people to be truly righteous, fair, and just to all. They should not oppress those who work for them, and they should not deceive those with whom they do business.  They should be true and generous to those who need help and should freely give to those in need.  If they do these things, the Israelites would be the people in whom God delights.

On this first Sunday in Lent, we can take a lesson from both these passages.  They can help shape our Lenten experience and help us determine our own response to grace.  Will we have the positive response to grace like St. Paul’s? Will our response to God’s call be one of joy unfeigned and of the knowledge of God’s ever-present help?  Will we take this Lent to use God’s grace in a constructive and edifying manner?  That is, will we be better for it after this Lenten season?  Or, will we in some way emulate the ancient Jews, by engaging in outward worship while resisting real, inward change?  God forbid.

God forbid that this Lent be anything else but a time of somber spiritual refreshment.  Let our souls and beings be flooded with our positive response to grace, so much so that we are the better people for having gone through it. Unlike the sinners of old, let us use our worship time together to build each other up, while experiencing great spiritual refreshment ourselves.  There is no better time, and there certainly is no better place to do this.

In Christ, we are the new, chosen people of God.  Let our response to His grace be always praiseworthy to Him, and edifying to us in this blessed and holy season of Lent.

2 Corinthians 6:1-2: “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.  2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)”

Glory be to God the Father, and to God the Son and to God the Holy Ghost, now and forever.   AMEN