Saturday, August 18, 2012

Saturday in Pentecost, Proper 14: Participation in the sins of others

Opening Sentence
Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, "I dwell in the high and holy place and also with the one who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite." Isaiah 57:15

Commemoration: William Porcher DuBose
Almighty God, who gave to your servant William Porcher DuBose special gifts of grace to understand the Scriptures and to teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus: Grant that by this teaching we may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 107:33-43, 108

Lessons: Judges 16:1-14Acts 7:30-43John 5:1-18

O Holy God, just Judge, You have committed to me not only the care of my own soul, but also the care of my neighbor’s. But how often my carelessness causes great detriment to my neighbor’s piety. How often I fail to rebuke my neighbor frankly and forthrightly for sin. How often I accuse my neighbor less forthrightly of faults, held back by fear or by a desire for my neighbor’s favor. I am lax in praying for my neighbor’s salvation (1 Timothy 2:1). I am timid in rebuking my neighbor for sin (Ezekiel 3:21). I am faint in the advancement of my neighbor’s salvation. Thus You most righteously are able to hold me responsible for the blood of my perishing neighbor.

If my love for my neighbor were perfect and sincere, then that love would surely produce a candid and honest rebuke. If the fire of sincere love burned in my heart, then certainly it would flame more brightly as I offer the spiritual incense of prayer for my neighbor’s salvation. We pray for ourselves all the time because we always are concerned for ourselves. But to ask God for the salvation of a neighbor is a work of love. When I do not pray for the salvation of my neighbor, I condemn myself by a violation of the law of love.

My neighbor dies a physical death, and I mourn and groan day and night, though physical death no harm to the godly person because it provides a transition to the heavenly kingdom. My neighbor dies a spiritual death by committing mortal sins, and I watch my neighbor die without concern. I am not grieved at all, though sin is the true death of the soul through which comes the inestimable loss of divine grace and eternal life. My neighbor offends the king, and I seek my neighbor’s reconciliation by every means available. My neighbor offends the King of kings, who is able to dispatch soul and body to hell (Matthew 10:28), and I look on without concern. I do not consider this offense of the King to be an immeasurable evil. My neighbor stumbles on a stone, and I quickly prevent the fall or help my neighbor up from the fall. My neighbor stumbles at the Cornerstone of our salvation (Psalm 118:22), and I show careless neglect. Void of the concern and attentiveness I ought to have, I do not lift up my neighbor again. My sins are many and weighty enough, but still I am not afraid to participate in someone else’s sins.

Be gracious, O God, I am a great and immeasurably burdened sinner. I carry my sins and the sins of others. I flee to Your mercy, which is promised to me in and through Christ. I, who am dead in sin, draw near to the Life (John 14:6). I, who am erring in the way of sin, draw near to the Way. I, who because of sin am worthy of damnation, draw near to the Salvation. Make me alive. Direct and save me for eternity, my true Life, Way, and Salvation. Amen.

Johann Gerhard

Grace Greater Than Our Sin