Hear the words for the Collect for the 19th Sunday after Trinity:
O God, forasmuch as without Thee we are not able to please Thee; mercifully grant that Thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditation on 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.
When we hear the words, “Mercifully grant that Thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts,” we are comforted by them. Yet, we may still question the meaning of these words from the Collect for today.
This prayer tells us that the power and authority of The Holy Ghost is available to all of us. He can guide our actions, control what words we speak to each other, and direct us to assist those in need. These are comforting thoughts indeed.
However, the words ‘guide’, ‘control’, and ‘direct’ have an implied meaning of the individual allowing The Holy Ghost to operate in and through us, and thus allowing these things to happen. Now we all know that we do not always do what is right, as Paul reminds us in Romans 7:19, when he says:
… For the good that I would I do not: but the evil, which I would not, that I do.
So why does St. Paul allow this situation to occur over and over again? Or even better: Why do we allow these things to occur in our lives over and over again?
The key words in this discussion are ‘may’ and ‘allow’. However, if both of these words are to be true in their use, then they require that an action be taken on our part. We must allow The Holy Ghost access to our minds, hearts, and souls. No part of ourselves can be left out, or held back.
We must, in effect, give up sitting on the throne of our hearts. That place is reserved for the one who created us and sees to all of our needs. That one is God Himself. We must give up the kingdom of man for the kingdom of God. Once that is done we may now proceed to the Epistle for today, keeping in mind that we have given ourselves to God, and it is through His power that we are able to do what He asks.
Saint Paul begins with where we have come from. He points out to us that we are different than we were before. We must not be puffed up with our own knowledge, as this vanity clouds our understanding of who God is and what He wants us to do. He tells us this truth in verse 18 when he points to “… the blindness of their heart” of the old man. This ‘blindness’ is the root cause of the inability to distinguish between good and evil. With this ability absent it is then very easy to fall into “uncleanness” and “greediness”.
Yet with The Holy Ghost within us, we are a new person. As Saint Paul tells us in verse 24, this “new man … is created in righteousness and holiness.” When this happens we are now able to function with a clear understanding of how God wants us to interact with the world and with each other.
The last part of the Epistle, from verse 25 to verse 32, contains twenty commandments for Christians. Some are do’s and some are don’ts, yet each is important for the development and activity of a Christian’s life.
The section ends with the reason we must do these things and the method to achieve the high regard we must have for one another. Verse 32 states “… forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” This is the key to a Christian’s life for it is by forgiving one another that we are forgiven. If our hearts are closed by holding unto the hurts done to us by others, then it is closed to God and His forgiveness of us. One begets the other and without the one the other cannot occur.
So, now that we know how this whole process is supposed to work, let us return to the question I posed before, and keeping in mind Romans 7:19 (”… the good that I would, etc.”) “How do these bad things happen?” The answer is clear. WE interfere in the operation of The Holy Ghost in our lives and hearts. WE purposely stop good actions for bad reasons. (“… the evil that I would not, that I do.”) WE harden our hearts so God cannot enter and forgiveness is shut out completely.
We see this play out in the Gospel lesson for today as it speaks of two groups of men. One of these groups is made up of scribes who have come to hear Jesus. They are learned in the law and the prophets. In their own minds they know who God is and how He operates. They are totally focused on Jesus. However, they have let their knowledge of Who they think God that it clouds their view of Who is standing in front of them. They cannot see who Jesus is, because their hearts are closed by their preconceptions of who He is.
The second group of men is carrying their friend to Jesus to be healed. They have no doubts about the ability of Jesus to heal the palsy, which afflicts their friend. Additionally, the sick man himself has no doubts about the ability of Jesus to heal him either. Their hearts and minds are also focused on Jesus, but they can see the healer and are expecting a miracle. They will not be disappointed in their expectations.
Jesus acts with authority and forgives the sins of the man sick with the palsy. The scribes say within themselves, “This man blasphemeth.” To this Jesus responds “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” Jesus does not stop there. He heals the sick man totally to give the scribes a concrete example of God’s power and authority in action. Yet they still cannot see Who He is.
We too have a choice to be either like the scribes or like the sick man and his friends. We may either allow God to work in us and through us or not as we chose. I pray that we have not closed our hearts and shut out The Holy Ghost so that He cannot guide, control and direct our actions and activities.
Let us make sure that the throne of our heart is occupied by the one for whom it was designed, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, so that like the sick man and the multitudes that we may “marvel, and glorify God” by allowing Him to work in us and through us.
Rev. John Jacobs