Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
As Anglicans in North America we are starting a period of testing. Our efforts at unity will test us in ways many of us have not experienced and they will surely test our commitment, our willingness to live out these two commandments in the life of the Church. Our vertical relations to God and our horizontal relation to man are what will be thoroughly tested in the years ahead. For better or for ill the results of that testing will be seem by the world and reflect on its impression regarding the Christ we claim to serve.
On this, the first Sunday of Lent, we find ourselves in what has to be almost the penultimate confessional Sunday of all the liturgical year. Wednesday we participated in Ash Wednesday where we heard of how we are dust and to dust we shall return as ashes were applied to our foreheads symbolizing that beginning and yet we received not merely smudges of ash portraying the condition of man but a cross of ash symbolizing our hope, the one who took on the form of dust for us. Since then we have spent a few days reflecting on that experience, our condition, and what it means, or at least we should have.
As is proper, our collect for the day will be setting the tone for the homily. It states:
O LORD God, who seest that we put not our trust in any thing that we do; Mercifully grant that by thy power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
It is through this lens that we will look at some of our readings today and see what they hold for us. We will concentrate on our text from Isaiah, who figures in this passage as a type of Christ, walking through that text inserting references to the other readings as appropriate. I will say that I did not add as many references as could have been made from today’s readings, in fact I left out quite a few. But as being thorough would have required a sermon of approximately and hour and a half, you can chalk those omissions up as one more thing to be thankful for today.
I was asked recently if in my preaching I preach the lectionary or if I preach topically. My answer was that I tend to stick to the lectionary, but that occasionally I would preach topically. In practice though, the two things are often not mutually exclusive. Take today for instance, here we have the sixth Sunday after Epiphany, it is not always a Sunday we observe, in years like this when the time between Christmas and Easter are longer it is needed to cover the Sundays prior to the pre-Lenten season. On other years,
Epiphany I- 2011
Our Collect for today says—
O LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people who call upon thee; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Already in regular use in the 5th century, it was this particular Collect that inspired St. Celestine while Bishop of Rome to observe that the law of our praying establishes the law of our believing. You may have heard of the concept, it most often goes by the moniker lex ordandi, lex credendi.