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The collect for today, the commemoration of George Herbert (1593-1633), Priest, Poet (source):
King of glory, king of peace,
who didst call thy servant George Herbert
from the pursuit of worldly honours
to be a priest in the temple of his God and king:
grant us also the grace to offer ourselves
with singleness of heart in humble obedience to thy service;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
My God and King.
The heavens are not too high,
His praise may thither fly:
The earth is not too low,
His praises there may grow.
Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
My God and King.
The church with psalms must shout,
No door can keep them out:
But above all, the heart
Must bear the longest part.
Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
My God and King.
George Herbert was born to a wealthy family in Montgomery, Wales. Educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, he appeared headed for a prominent public career, but the deaths of King James I and two patrons ended that possibility.
He chose to pursue holy orders in the Church of England and became rector at Bemerton, near Salisbury, in 1629, where he died four years later of tuberculosis. His preaching and service to church and parishioners contributed to his reputation as an exemplary pastor. He did not become known as a poet until shortly after he died, when his poetry collection The Temple was published.
He is buried in Saint Andrew Bemerton Churchyard.
“I am the vine, ye are the branches”
There is something rather disquieting and quite disturbing about The Feast of St. Matthias. He is, after all, the disciple chosen by lot and by prayer to take the place of the traitor Judas, as the Collect so directly puts it. It is impossible to consider St. Matthias without thinking about the kiss of Judas and our own betrayals. To contemplate Matthias is to confront the betrayals of our own hearts. That may be the real blessing for it opens us out to the grace of God which is greater than our hearts of betrayal. Out of Judas’ betrayal comes Matthias’ faithfulness.
To be fair, we only know about his being chosen. That is the burden of the lesson from Acts. About his ministry and personality, we know far less. But that is in keeping with the Scriptures as a whole. They don’t fulfill our Oprah and Dr. Phil type desires; slim pickings for the gossip rags ancient and modern. Instead, they offer theology.
The theology here is most instructive. It is the theology of substitution, the theology of atonement belonging to the logic of redemption. Matthias takes the place of Judas. Why does he have to be replaced? Judas betrayed Christ and out of remorse killed himself. Why not just carry on sans Judas? Because of a larger consideration. The number twelve. The twelve apostles look back to the twelve tribes of Israel and look ahead to the apostolic foundation of the Church. It is all about how we are part of something more and greater than ourselves, namely, the community of redeemed sinners.
The collect for today, the Feast of Saint Matthias the Apostle, from The Book of Common Prayer (Canadian, 1962):
O ALMIGHTY God, who into the place of the traitor Judas didst choose thy faithful servant Matthias to be of the number of the twelve Apostles: Grant that thy Church, being alway preserved from false Apostles, may be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot after Judas had betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide. In the time between Christ’s Ascension and Pentecost, the small band of disciples, numbering about 120, gathered together and Peter spoke of the necessity of selecting a twelfth apostle to replace Judas. Peter enunciated two criteria for the office of apostle: He must have been a follower of Jesus from the Baptism to the Ascension, and he must be a witness to the resurrected Lord. This meant that he had to be able to proclaim Jesus as Lord from first-hand personal experience. Two of the brothers were found to fulfill these qualifications: Matthias and Joseph called Barsabbas also called the Just. Matthias was chosen by lot. Neither of these two men is referred to by name in the four Gospels, although several early church witnesses, including Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius of Caesarea, report that Matthias was one of the seventy-two disciples.
Like the other apostles and disciples, St. Matthias received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Since he is not mentioned later in the New Testament, nothing else is known for certain about his activities. He is said to have preached in Judaea for some time and then traveled elsewhere. Various contradictory stories about his apostolate have existed since early in church history. The tradition held by the Greek Church is that he went to Cappadocia and the area near the Caspian Sea where he was crucified at Colchis. Some also say he went to Ethiopia before Cappadocia. Another tradition holds that he was stoned to death and then beheaded at Jerusalem.
The Empress St Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, is said to have brought St Matthias’s relics to Rome c. 324, some of which were moved to the Benedictine Abbey of St Matthias, Trier, Germany, in the 11th century.
Artwork: Peter Paul Rubens, St. Matthias, c. 1611. Oil on panel, Prado, Madrid.
“But speak the word only”
What wonderful words! Here we see the power of God’s Word which goes forth not only to create but to restore and heal. Here we have a double healing, a healing within Israel and a healing outside of Israel, a healing touch and a healing word, the word tangible and visible, we might say, the word audible and intelligible. Jesus heals the leper by “put[ting] forth his hand and touching him,” touching the untouchable, the leper, and then says, “I will, be thou clean.” Here is the Word and touch of Christ near and at hand. Then, there is the healing of the Centurion’s servant, a healing from afar, by the simple power of the Word spoken and passed on, as it were, down through the ranks of the Roman legion!
It is not that Jesus is unwilling to make house calls. “I will come and heal him,” Jesus said. The Centurion’s response to this captures our attention and, more importantly, Jesus’ attention. The healing power of God in Christ reaches down through the centuries; it is not confined to time and place. Such is the meaning of God and here we see something of the marvel and the wonder of what God ultimately seeks for us. We are healed and restored, defined and dignified by his Word.
“You are not your own”
Scripture tests our patience. But more often than not, it is about our willingness to hear and not simply our lack of understanding.
Today’s lessons are a case in point. The lesson from Genesis is the story of the blessing of Jacob, a story of deceit really, because Jacob disguises himself as Esau and takes his place, thereby robbing his brother Esau of his birthright, the blessing of the first-born. Jacob uses cunning or guile to obtain what he wants. And yet, Jacob will become Israel by wrestling with an angel, wrestling with God, with whom there can be no deceit. There is, in short, a transformation which takes place. Jacob, the man of guile, becomes Israel, “in whom there is no guile”, as Jesus says about a later Israelite, Nathaniel.
In other words, there is hope for us all! There is the hope of change for the better in our lives, the hope of transformation, the hope for something more than the endless and dreary round of our same-old sins which, if not deadly, at least deaden us to the life-giving reality of God’s Word. In the case of Jacob, God is able to make something good out of the treachery and betrayals of our lives, even out of our own treachery and betrayal.
Genesis can be read as a set of stories about brothers: Cain and Abel, Abraham and Lot, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers. Through the various spectacles of sibling rivalry, God forges a people for himself through whom his will for all peoples is proclaimed. But are we willing to listen and attend to these stories?
“If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities”
Storms and sports seem to define our Canadian winter but let’s hope they don’t define our souls!
These three ‘gesima’ Sundays provide us with some important moral lessons that prepare us for the journey of Lent, the journey of the soul to God. They involve the transformation of the classical virtues of temperance, courage, prudence, and justice through the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. This Sunday, Sexagesima Sunday, shows us the virtues of courage and prudence as transformed into love by the love of God.
God’s love seeks the perfection of our humanity. The virtues are the activities of the soul which seek human perfection. But the classical virtues, if left to themselves, can become, as Augustine argues, splendid vices. They are activities for we are not essentially passive creatures defined by what we have or simply by what we receive through our experiences for, then, we are not free. The cardinal virtues teach us something about the character and nature of our souls and the activity of our souls. But the activity seems to be from our side, the side of human seeking, human knowing and doing, as if we could perfect ourselves, as if we could attain to God on the strength and wisdom of our own. Therein lies the problem.
Does that mean that the virtues should be extinguished in us? No. Because, once again, we are not essentially passive beings. There needs to be our engagement with what comes to us; it is not just about what comes from us. That is where the transformation of the virtues by grace comes into play; the virtues become forms of love, forms of our participation in God’s love. Transitional between Epiphany and Lent, these ‘gesima’ Sundays remind us of the love of God manifest in Jesus and indicate how that love is to live in us.
Monday, February 24th, St. Matthias
4:45-5:00pm Conformation Class, Room 206, KES
6:00-7:00pm Brownies/Sparks – Parish Hall
7:00pm Holy Communion – Coronation Room
Tuesday, February 25th
6:00pm ‘Prayers & Praises’ – Haliburton Place
7:00 Christ Church Book Club (rescheduled): 419 by Will Ferguson and The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
Thursday, February 27th
3:15pm Service at Windsor Elms
6:30-7:30pm Girl Guides – Parish Hall
Sunday, March 2nd, Quinquagesima
8:00am Holy Communion – Parish Hall (followed by Men’s Club Breakfast)
10:30am Holy Communion – Parish Hall
Confirmation Classes: Rm. 206 at KES. The dates are Feb. 24th & March 3rd. Please contact Fr. Curry, 790-6173
Tuesday, March 4th
4:30-6:30pm Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, Parish Hall. $7 (adults), $3.50 (children 12 and under)
Saturday, March 8th
9:00am-4:00pm Lenten Quiet Day, King’s-Edgehill School, on the theme Lent and Original Sin, led by Fr. David Curry, sponsored by the Prayer Book Society of Canada, Nova Scotia and PEI Branch.
The collect for today, Sexagesima (or the Second Sunday Before Lent) from The Book of Common Prayer (Canadian, 1962):
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.
Artwork: James Tissot, The Sower, 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum.
“Go ye also into the vineyard”
The parable of the labourers in the vineyard is powerful and disturbing. That is the point of the parables. They are meant to prod us into thinking. They offer us another way of looking at things. Often as not they are deliberately provocative.
What could be more provocative than the idea that those who have worked less should receive the same pay as those who have worked more? It violates our sense of justice completely. And yet, the point of the whole parable is to open us out to a larger consideration of the justice of God. “Whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.” But what is right? Are we the measure? Is right simply, ‘what is right for me?’ Meaning, of course, what I want for me? But on the other hand, is there not a question about equity, about a sense of shared equality? Otherwise doesn’t everything come down to what is simply arbitrary? Now there is a problem!
But is that what we have in this parable? I don’t think so. I think this parable challenges the assumptions that I am measured by what I get and that I am owed what I think I should have; in short, it challenges the entitlement culture of our world and day. What is that? The idea that I am entitled to whatever I think I should have. Why? Because of who I am. Who am I? I am measured by my sense of self-worth but that is measured entirely by what I think I am owed. It is, of course, about arguing in a circle but the assumption is clear. My worth is measured in terms of what I receive. To the contrary, the parable challenges all of the forms of homo economicus, our humanity as defined primarily by economics, whether as consumers or as producers.
The parable suggests another principle which defines our lives. It is simply this. We are called to be labourers – workers. Not in the Marxist sense of homo faber, that I am what I make or produce, but in the much more radical sense that there is something positive and free, something dignified and true in labour. It belongs to the truth of our being as intellectual and moral creatures, creatures who know and love. Work or labour is about our lives as spiritual beings. Standing idle is not good and is not wanted. “Go ye also into the vineyard”. What is that vineyard but the good order of creation? What is our place in the created order? Both before and after the Fall, we are called to labour, to work: first, “to have dominion over” the whole of creation and “to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it”; and, secondly, “to toil” on the ground and to labour for only “in the sweat of your face shall you eat bread.”