Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the week of Pentecost 16 - Proper 21

Bishop Eric Menees

“O God, who declarest thy almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we, running to obtain thy promises, may be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

One of the most powerful and haunting movies I've ever seen is the movie Schindler's List. For several years, I watched it twice a year as I showed it to my Ethics class at The Bishop's School. There is one scene in the movie where Oscar Schindler - a self-serving profiteer of the war - comes to grips with the reality of the evil of the Nazis. In that scene, Schindler is speaking with Amon Goeth - a Labor Camp Commandant who is drunk with power and is randomly shooting Jews in the labor camp from his rooftop patio; a course of action giving credence to Lord John Dalberg-Acton's phrase: "Power corrupts: absolute power corrupts absolutely."   

Schindler:     Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don't.
Goeth:      You think that's power?
Schindler:    That's what the Emperor said. A man steals something, he's brought in before the Emperor, he throws himself down on the ground. He begs for his life, he knows he's going to die. And the Emperor... pardons him. This worthless man, he lets him go.
Goeth:      I think you are drunk.
Schindler:    That's power, Amon. That is power.

This week's Collect captures the almighty power of God who, in fact, has every justification to destroy His creation and simply start over, but instead shows mercy and pity. God demonstrates this first with Noah, in His decision to never flood the earth again (Genesis 8:20-21). God's mercy was shown in the saving of Isaac, the firstborn son of Abraham (Genesis 22). Last week's lesson from Jonah also demonstrated God's character - much to Jonah's displeasure - in saving the people of Nineveh who repented. But, chiefly, God's love and mercy are demonstrated by the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross for our sins.  

Jesus' death and resurrection demonstrate God's mercy, but that does not mean that there are no consequences for sin. We - each and every man, woman, and child ever born - will one day stand before the great judgement seat of Christ. On that day, we will not simply hope for, but count upon, God's character being unchanging. God's character is to show love and mercy - as Jonah so aptly said: "This is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing." (Jonah 4:2)  

The question isn't IS God merciful - we know He is. The question is, what will WE DO in response to the gift of His mercy? That is why this collect begs: "...grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we, running to obtain thy promises, may be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure…."  

O God, in your great love inspire us to be merciful, loving, and gracious to others, as you are to us!  And to that I say...AMEN.

Catechism Questions # 19-21

ARTICLE I: FAITH IN GOD I BELIEVE - Concerning the Creeds

19. What is a creed?
A creed is a statement of faith. The word creedcomes from the Latin credo, which
means I believe.

20. What is the purpose of the Creeds?
The purpose of the Creeds is to declare and safeguard Gods truth about himself,
ourselves, and creation, as revealed in Holy Scripture.

21. What does belief in the Creeds signify?

Belief in the Creeds signifies acceptance of Gods revealed truth, and the intention to live by it.

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