Hear the words of the Collect for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity:
Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things; graft in our hearts the love of Thy Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of Thy great mercy keep us in the same.
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.
In this prayer we find that God has consecrated us through, and in, our baptisms, and this is to lead us to a life of self-consecration in the service of God. We are to recognize God as our Master in all things. Paul in the Epistle for today uses the idea of slavery to show us how we must dedicate our lives to Christ. It is an image that most of us find uncomfortable because we pride ourselves on being free people in so many different ways. Yet, Saint Paul reminds us in Romans 6:16:
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
Paul reminds us here that if we sin, we are the slaves of sin, no matter how free we think we are. If we doubt this observation let us look at those who are in bondage to drugs, for there you will see people doing things that they would not willingly do if they were free of them. However, after Paul apologizes for using this image of slavery, because he cannot think of the service of Christ as bondage in any way, he proceeds to explain some of the facets of our self-consecration to Christ.
The first point Paul makes is that we are to be as conscientious in serving Christ, as we were in serving sin. Is this point really necessary to be made? Saint Paul thought so. Consider how we spend our last ounce of strength in having a good time on our vacations, but will not attend Church on a holy day because we want and need our rest from working? We should to be just as dedicated in our service to Jesus Christ as we are to having fun.
The second point that Paul is making here is the fact that there is no middle ground for us to stand on. We will either serve sin or we will serve righteousness. There is no middle state where we can be without a master. This goes all the way back to Moses’ challenge to the Children of Israel before they would enter the Promised Land which is recorded in Deuteronomy 30:19:
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.
Saint Paul goes on to describe the results, the payment if we will, for the service we render either to Christ or to sin. He tells us in Romans 6:23 that, “the wages of sin is death.” I wonder if we know that this is both the immediate wages and the long-term result of sin that he is talking about.
Intellectually we know, and theologically we believe, that on Judgement Day those who have not claimed Jesus Christ as their Savior will be eternally separated from Him and cast into eternal darkness. However, do we realize the immediate dying of a piece of us when we sin? Or, do we think that we can sin and repent later, because there is plenty of time before we have to give up our secret faults?
Let us look at what happens when we sin. The Rev. Melville Scott, in his commentary on this passage puts it this way:
The wages are the immediate result, just as the end is the final consequence of sin. The immediate consequences of sin are death, for each sin diminishes our capacity for life intellectual, moral, and spiritual. Sin darkens the intellect, blunts the conscience, and deadens all the faculties of the soul. These consequences are wages, for every sin has its just recompense and reward paid down surely and punctually when we sin. As wages are paid for each day’s labor, so also for each day’s sin. We have not to wait till the final reckoning, for we receive our reward by installments, though the final reckoning and end of sin is death.
(Rev. Prebendary Melville Scott, D. D., on Trinity Seven, from The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels: A Devotional Exposition of the Continuous Teaching of the Church Throughout the Year, S.P.C.K., London, 1902)
The wages of Christ are just as sure and complete, and they have two vast differences with the wages of sin. The first is that since these actions proceed out of the heart and soul of a person, they bear good fruit which sin can never do. This fruit is pleasing to God as well as to others. The only fruit that sin brings forth is a disease that ultimately consumes the tree.
The other point is that the gift of eternal life is a free gift. Even while the person justly deserves death, life is given freely in Jesus Christ. It is not something we begin to deserve because we have chosen goodness. It is something God has freely given to us in spite of our sins. As Rev. Scott again points out:
Yet we may learn that righteousness, like sin, has both a present reward, the yoke ever easier, the burden lighter, the peace deeper, and the hope ever more assured, and also a final end to which it is ever tending, even eternal life. (ob sit)
This brings us to the Gospel lesson for today and the feeding of the Four Thousand. This shows us the immediate results of following Jesus. He calls us to follow Him into the wilderness, and so we do. We use up all the food (all of the resources) we have brought with us, and as scripture says, “we are an hungered,” just like Jesus was in His Temptation. Christ demands our devotion, and He will provide the Grace for us to do so. He responds to our needs, and by so doing shows us that He is considerate of the situations His People are in. He knows that we have needs and He does all to see that they are met.
Jesus feeds the multitudes twice, and the Gospels have recorded these miracles in six different places, just to make sure we get the point that Christ provides bountifully for His People. He will not send us out empty handed and He will provide for us as we go, but, and this is a big but, we must do all we can with the gifts of the spirit and the mind that we possess before we go to Him.
This is the Master whom we serve. Not only is He The God of Power and might, He is also The God of Love and consideration. He is the author of all good things through His love for us.
So, as we read in the Collect for today let us see that it a is prayer for the beginning of our service to Jesus as our master, an increase of that service, a nourishment of that service, and the perseverance in that service for our entire lives.
Rev. John Jacobs