Sunday, June 20, 2010

Propers for the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

It is alleged by the skeptic that we follow some spirit in the sky blindly, with no reason for following him outside of simple faith.  I believe today's liturgy strongly counters this concept, and we would do well to listen.  Instead, we see today a God who provides in all things for those who trust in Him.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the protector of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Mine enemies that have troubled me have themselves been weakened and have fallen.Ps. 26:3. If armies in camp should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear

Our Introit starts today with a prayer of boldness and confidence.  With God on our side, we should not fear.  While a simple sounding statement, there is profound depth to it.  We know that God is with us because of the light he provides for His people.  That light is no ordinary light, but the light that shines true upon our souls.  We understand not only ourselves, but our friends, relatives, even human nature as a whole with far greater clarity when God provides that light.  He is also our salvation in all things.  The Jews of the Exodus faced overwhelming odds, first against the Egyptians than against the various nations they conquered.  Constantly we hear the refrains from Moses, Joshua, and various Biblical figures to stand courageously, for God fights with us.  If we truly trust God is fighting with us, then God will surely win us the victory we require.  The man whom trusts in God will certainly triumph over his enemies, either in this life or in the final judgment, where he stands triumphant before God who says "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that the world may be regulated in its course by Thy governance for our peace, and that Thy Church may with tranquil devotion rejoice.(Collect)

In addition to salvation, we find that God provides regulation.  With all the news of regulation in the political sphere, we sometimes lose the purpose of true and just regulation.  True and just regulation exists as a safeguard for people.  They are prevented from doing certain things because of the ruin these things will inflict.  With God, He provides His regulation for the ultimate good of our peace.  When we follow the precepts of God, even with enemies surrounding us, we can have the inner peace and confidence God desires.  This is the confidence that had Tertullian boldly dare Caesar to continue making martyrs out of Christians, for in doing so, he was setting up his own downfall and the day Christianity would conquer Rome.  This is the confidence of the Church militant which worships the Father in spirit and truth.

Brethren: I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us. For the expectation of the creature waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity: not willingly, but by reason of him that made it subject, in hope. Because the creature also itself shall be delivered from the servitude of corruption, into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now. And not only it, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit: even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body. (Epistle Romans 8 18-23)

The Epistle today provides us a reason for having this confidence.  That reason is our own bodies, indeed all of creation.  Despite the power of sin, her victory is not total.  Within every human being, within all creation their remains a spark.  That spark calls us to the order of the world as God initially planned it.  Even those for whom sin masters their lives they know there is something more.  As Christians, we know that eventually, that order will be restored perfectly.  As a result, we are to desire this above all things.  We are to desire the time when God restores that order to a creation without sin.  We desire to be liberated from the feelings of lust, vanity, envy, all those grievous sins.   We long for the day when the beauty of creation even in her limited state is given the fullness of God's power in the New Jerusalem.  As human beings, we most importantly await the day when our bodies are fully redeemed, free from all want and unholy desire, put forth for their original purpose of eternal union with God.  Great as it is, we receive only a small amount of this glory in our own turning to Christ through baptism and the sacraments.  As much as you think they help your soul, God has far greater gifts in store when He no longer needs the sacraments.  Part of this flicker is revealed in today's Gospel, which says:

At that time, when the multitudes pressed upon Jesus to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Genesareth, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them and were washing their nets. And going into one of the ships that was Simon's, he desired him to draw back a little from the land. And sitting, he taught the multitudes out of the ship. Now when he had ceased to speak, he said to Simon: "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught."   And Simon answering said to him: "Master, we have laboured all the night and have taken nothing: but at thy word I will let down the net." And when they had done this, they enclosed a very great multitude of fishes: and their net broke. And they beckoned to their partners that were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came and filled both the ships, so that they were almost sinking.  Which when Simon Peter saw, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." For he was wholly astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken. And so were also James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were Simon's partners. And Jesus saith to Simon: "Fear not: from henceforth thou shalt catch men." And having brought their ships to land, leaving all things, they followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)

Here we see one of the many miracles that Christ performs in the Gospels.  Like all miracles, they provided a temporal benefit, but pointed to a far greater reality for the one who has faith.  We know from this reading that the Apostles were hard at work in their lots in life, but little fruit was born from their efforts.  Many times we feel the same.  We struggle against our disordered desires and sins, only to accomplish nothing.  Sometimes, we slide even further.  Christ instead asks us to try something He thinks will work.  Yet in order to do this, we must venture "into the deep", away from our comfort zones and everything that is not firmly within Him.  We place ourselves at real risk during this time, to vulnerability, danger, even despair.  What if Peter had cast out far into the deep and caught nothing?  We know of course that the bounty was far greater than they could have ever expected.  When we have the faith of Peter "at thy word I will" God accomplishes great things.

Yet at times God's glory can be a frightening thing.  He is capable of things we can barely fathom.  When they occur, we realize our complete inadequacy compared to God.  This is why Peter says "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man."  Sometimes in our lives God delivers us from something, only we have no clue what to do.  Instead of relief from deliverance, we have great fear.  Bad as those sins may have been, they provided a certain comfort and stability that Christ has ripped away from us.  Like an addict that goes through withdrawal, so our bodies go through withdrawal from sin, and this troubles us greatly.

It is at this point Christ states in a very blunt manner "Fear not, from now on you shall catch men."  Great as the first miracle was, Christ promises something even greater.  When we are delivered from our sins, God reminds us that He will reveal something greater.  That is, God will reveal to us how we are to truly live in the freedom of God's mercy.  While sin will still effect us, we are no longer enslaved by it, so we must learn how to live a life worthy of that freedom.  That freedom comes from "God's regulation" as discussed in the Collect.  Providing us assistance along the way are the sacraments, which the Postcommunion reminds us of:

May the Mysteries which we have received, we beseech Thee, O Lord, purify us, and fulfill their purpose by defending us.
Part of God's great regulation provides us with remedies should we be in trouble.  The very purpose of those remedies are to defend us.  When we miss the comforts of a life in sin, we feel drawn back to them.  At this point we should turn with greater vigor to the sacraments.  No doubt Peter and the Apostles felt the call of their former lives after giving up everything to follow Him.  To counter this remedy, they sought to be even closer to our Lord, to learn in an even deeper fashion how to live properly in the freedom salvation provides.  The sacraments keep the faithful soul focused on a right living, attaching ones self deeper and deeper to the Rock that is Christ.  In this great paradox, only through God's regulation can we find true liberty.

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