W E L C O M E . . . to the blog site of ALL SAINTS ANGLICAN CHURCH of Rochester
We pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified and...
you will be blessed by your time spent with us.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sept. 12: God's perfect patience and mercy are meant to reach us

On this day we remembered in prayer those who lost their lives nine years ago in the deadliest terrorist attack on our soil, offering continued prayers for their family members and friends.

Fr. David began his sermon by pointing out how often the Bible presents stories of rescue and sacrifice -- two in the day's Gospel reading alone, the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin found in Luke 15:1-10.

"Among the lasting memories of 9/11 are the heroic stories of self-sacrifice, for example the heroes aboard United 93, and of rescue, such as we saw in the brave response of New York's firefighters and police.

"In the Bible, Jesus is God's rescue worker. In our second reading (I Timothy 1:12-17), Paul makes this plain when he writes: 'The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.'

"You know, when Paul calls himself 'foremost of sinners', we have to wonder if that's an act of pride or of humble faith. What do we know about Paul before his conversion on the Damascus road, when he was still called Saul?

"We know that Saul was pedigreed in Judaism and very proud. In our reading passage he lays claim to being a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent aggressor, and also that he was ignorant in his unbelief.

"How was Saul a blasphemer? Well, primarily, it was because he took upon himself the job of speaking for God rather than letting God be God -- something like 'healers' who blame the afflicted when healing fails to occur or false prophets with their 'listen to me; I have the answers' attitudes.

"Saul was a blasphemer because he thought by killing the followers of Christ he could stop things from changing, even though the change was ordained by God. He was full of arrogance and pride.

"Saul was also a persecutor and aggressor, zealous to avenge what he saw as Christians' defiling of God's honor. He presided at stonings where people were being killed for no other reason than belief in Christ, and he was proud of it and proud of the honor he received from those casting the stones.

"Spiritually, it was the same as if he was a tormentor of Christ's at the crucifixion. Saul stood and watched as St. Stephen, just before giving up his life, repeated the words of Christ: 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them,' (Acts 7:59) and yet he was not troubled and was happy to receive the tribute of the mob afterward.

"In his own defense, Paul writes that at the time he 'acted ignorantly in unbelief'. So this begs a question, which is whether we can blame people for vigorously doing wrong if they believe they're doing right? We can, because at heart this wrong comes from turning to one's own way versus stopping and asking God the right thing to do.

"Fortunately for Saul, and for us, and even for our enemies, the Lord has perfect patience. He sees goodness in us when it isn't apparent and gives mercy when we least deserve it. How close was Saul to blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and how merciful was God toward him to stop him in his tracks and transform his life?

"If Saul could be forgiven for having no faith, for being arrogant, cruel, and merciless, how much more forgiveness is available even to our enemies, and how does God's patience and mercy affect our own feelings toward everyone around us?

"How can we offer forgiveness and mercy to each other and even to those we don't like at all, recognizing that the Lord is still seeking all who are lost? Governor Bradford of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, upon seeing prisoners going off to jail, famously said, 'There but for the grace of God go I.' We're works in progress -- God isn't finished with us yet, but we can be encouraged by Saul's miraculous transformation into St. Paul through the perfect patience and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord!"

No comments:

Post a Comment