Friday, August 1, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost - Proper 13

Bishop Eric Menees

“O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succor, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

As a bishop of the Church, this week's collecting prayer is one that is ever present on my lips. "Please God, have pity on your church and on me as your servant." Funny, when we think of the act of "pity," vague, negative connotations come to mind of the strong offering the weak sympathy out of guilt, or to get the weak to leave them alone - an image of shivering Oliver Twist asking for another morsel of bread from the indifferent, wealthy, top hatted man on the street corner. However, the term actually speaks more about someone in a position of power and authority having genuine compassion on a weaker person and providing them help and protection.

That is exactly the situation that we are in, and we need to be in continual acknowledgment of the reality that God is God, and we are His creation. In some ways, we are like the blind men on the side of the road near Jericho. They called out for Jesus to have mercy upon them and Jesus responded in pity and healed them:

And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!And stopping, Jesus called them and said, What do you want me to do for you?They said to him, Lord, let our eyes be opened.And Jesus in pity touched their eyes and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him (Matthew 21:30-34)

The blind men were blessed because they, unlike the Jewish authorities known as the Pharisees, recognized their blindness. This week's collect calls upon the Lord to have pity upon His church - to cleanse and defend us. What an important prayer, because too often we don't recognize our uncleanness or defenselessness until it is too late - until Satan has attacked, we've compromised our standards, and the floodgates have been opened.

Generally, this has taken place in the Church when she has sought to be "relevant" to the world - which has meant accepting the practices of the world for fear of the world rejecting us. History has proven how very deadly this desire to be liked by the world can be to the Church. The very existence of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin is due to the desire of the Episcopal Church USA to be relevant. In a short period of time, the leaders opened the floodgates by no longer seeking to live up to the standards of Holy Scripture. As a result, questions regarding the divinity of Jesus, the virgin birth, the physical resurrection, biblical ethics, etc., etc. are compromised so as not to "offend" anyone. The ethic of "tolerance" has become their guiding principle. The problem is that "tolerance" implies that you have a firm standard that you live by, and that you are gracious to an opposing view while not abandoning the standard or accepting the other viewpoint. The Episcopal Church, and many other mainline denominations, has confused "tolerance" with capitulation to, and acceptance of, a non-biblical worldview. Thus, they accept almost anything as good and right, as long as people do not impose their views upon another person or group.  

Let us join with Archbishop Cranmer and pray that the Lord will have pity on His Church, cleanse us of our errors and desire to be merely liked, and defend us from future attack and error.

Note: These articles written by Bishop Menees for the ADSJ. I have posted them for viewing by a wider audience with his permission. Dale+

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