Hear the words of the Collect for the Second Sunday after Trinity:
O Lord, who never failest to help and govern those whom Thou dost bring up in Thy steadfast fear and love; keep us, we beseech Thee, under the protection of Thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of Thy Holy Name.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be alway acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. We pray in the name of The Father, and of The Son, and of The Holy Ghost. Amen.
The Collect for today juxtaposes two words that in the thoughts of many people are not supposed to go together; those words are fear and love. The Collect tells us that we are to fear and love God as well as fear and love His Holy Name. Why then does this disconnect seem to exist between what classic Christianity teaches and what modern religious thought tries to tells us? What is it that the Propers for today are really telling us? Let me try and explain.
I want us to keep in mind that I am disregarding any rational, physical fear in this discussion. I am not going to discuss the fear of going swimming in a stream that has piranha in it. That is purely a physical, as well as a rational fear. I am also going to ignore the idea of phobia, an irrational fear of something like clowns.
With those two exclusions in mind the first point that we must look at is the definition of fear. I would like to distinguish two aspects of this word. The first aspect is worry and the second aspect is awe.
The concept of worry is something that consumes much of the world today. Just watching 10 minutes of any news program today will give us a litany of things to be afraid of. We worry about our health, safety, and many other such things.
On these ideas I will make two points. The first is that we do not worry about those things that we can do something about. We naturally do what we can do and should do. So planning for these things is a rational, not a worry type of thing. Second, to worry about what we can do nothing about is irrational. Many of the things we fear we can do absolutely nothing about. So why should anyone worry about them.
What we should do is the best we can with what we have and leave the rest to God. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:28 and 29:
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
I could go on discussing worry as irrational and what Jesus says about this subject. However, I will stop here and hope you understand what I am trying to say.
Next is a concept that we have only touched on lightly in the past, and that is the concept of awe as it applies to the Mysteries of God. This is most readily shown to us in the words of Saint Paul in Philippians 2:12:
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Here I remind you that we are not to worry about our salvation, for if we do we do not take God at His word. You see we always seem to forget the next verse where Saint Paul tells us that God will do all that He has promised to do because He loves us and wants to help us. Philippians 2:13 tells us:
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
What we are to consider with awe is the absolute Power of God to send us to Hell or to bring us into Heaven. What is awesome about this is that there is absolutely nothing we can do to earn or bend this decision. It is completely in His Hands, especially if we consider what we truly deserve. Exactly how He will judge us is written in the Epistle for today. The Apostle tells us in 1st John 3:18 to 21:
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
It is our own hearts that will judge us and not the words we say. Unfortunately, the words of love come all too easily to our lips, even when our hearts are cold.
So how to we know that we love God after we tape our mouths shut and leave all the verbal platitudes behind? The way that God knows that we love Him is that He sees what we do to the ones closest to us, our families and those in our own community, our neighbors. It is through this test that God knows who loves Him and who does not. This is just the point of the Gospel lesson for today.
In this parable we see that the king has bidden those that we think should be invited to this feast. We think that the rich and powerful of a society should be the closest to the ruler. Yet every one of them found a way to avoid going to the feast because they really did not love the king at all.
In the same manner we would think that the Scribes and Pharisees should be the closest to God, and have the most insight into His teachings. Yet, it is the Pharisees who thought that they could earn their way into God’s good graces by obedience to outward law and ignore the spiritual law of the heart. It is the Scribes who are jealous of their power that see Jesus as a threat that condemn Him.
We too have received the invitation card that God has sent to attend this feast of The Lamb in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is signed in our Lord’s Blood that flows from The Cross of Sacrifice and Love that stood on Calvary’s peak. And that is an awesome thought indeed. Our acceptance of that invitation, of that Love and Sacrifice, should be engraved in our hearts and shown to God and the world in our everyday actions in loving our neighbors.
You see all we really do need is God’s love in our hearts and not the worry that so often possess us. Through this God will know, and will we know as well, that we have indeed accepted Christ’s invitation to The Lamb’s high feast. That is a great thing to think about with just a tinge of awe and no worry at all.
Rev. John Jacobs