The Daily Offices

The Daily Offices from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, (Canada 1962), including daily Bible readings and occasional sermons from the Cathedral of the Annunication of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa

Monday, November 07, 2005


With today being in the Octave of All Saints’ Day and also the 24th Sunday after Trinity, three great themes are placed in front of us: faith, suffering and sanctification.

In the case of contemplating the lives of the Saints, as we did this past Tuesday on All Saints’ Day, our thoughts concerning them often dwell on their sanctification – that they all reflected one or more of the virtues that were most perfectly displayed in the Blessed Life and Death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But equally, and this falls into the category of being such a safe assumption that we give it no thought, equally there is the “given” that Saints in particular all had a lively faith. However, thus pondering only their individual paths to ever increasing holiness, for that is what sanctification means, and the safe assumption of their faith, our focus is perhaps too narrow.

As we just heard read in the Lesson from Revelation, if John’s vision of those assembled in front of the throne of God, clad in white robes, washed in the blood of the Lamb, represent those whom we call Saints today, we must remind ourselves of the words that accompany their thus being blessed by finding themselves in the Nearer Presence, “These are they which came out of great tribulation.” Now some may argue that this only applies to those who died a martyr’s death. However, there is no such specific reference; and, we also might be reminded that our English word “martyr” comes directly from the Greek word  - “witness.” Which is to say, the original meaning of the word was not restricted to those who were put to death for their faith in Jesus.

Very many of the Saints, even those who died a natural death, suffered in one form or another. Indeed, suffering, which we fear so much in our society, was viewed very differently by the early Church. Just a few weeks ago, we read, during the course of the Daily Offices, the first Epistle General of St. Peter, in which suffering for righteousness is viewed very much as a good thing. Thursday morning past, we read of the episode of the second imprisonment of the Peter and John following Pentecost. At the end of the episode, following, as least in part, the inspired advice of Gamaliel, the Sadducees released Peter and John, “when they had called the Apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the Name of Jesus, and let them go” (Acts 5.40). And here is where the translation into the English of the King James actually gives a more accurate impression of the circumstance, I feel, than the original Greek does. A more accurate translation of the Greek would say, “And they (the Apostles) departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be dishonoured on behalf of His Name.” King James, acknowledging that they had just been beaten, renders it “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name.”

Living, as we do, in a society and time of human history where both medical advances and the general wealth of the population have resulted in a healthy aversion to suffering of any sort, I suppose that it is not surprising that even the Church here in the west has adopted the same collective mindset. Suffering of any kind is not only to be avoided, we actually pray, individually and in groups, for this or that suffering to be alleviated, sometimes it seems, forgetting to add that all important caveat of our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane as He had already begun to suffer the physical anguish of His Passion, “nevertheless, not My will, but Thine, be done.”

It is important to make a distinction here, and this is where perhaps our language is impoverished in having only one word. As we know, our Blessed Lord was moved with compassion towards those who were suffering from illness or disease. Were we to have read the propers for Trinity 24 this morning, we would have encountered two examples of this, and also one of the other three themes I mentioned at the beginning – that of faith. The woman who had suffered the “issue of blood for twelve years” exhibited great faith, and she was healed. The ruler whose daughter had just died, risking the scorn of his contemporaries, came to Jesus with perhaps even greater faith – that Jesus could bring his daughter back to life – which He did. Aside from the wonderful examples of faith, these episodes also certainly show us our Lord’s compassion, but we should also be reminded that in some cases He did make the point that the illness was the result of sin. In the case of the paralytic, Jesus healed him of his physical suffering by telling him that his sins were forgiven – but to flesh that thought out more completely is a separate sermon in itself.

Illness, disease are certainly forms of suffering, and faithfully to pray for healing of those thus afflicted is, and always has been, good and right. But there are many other forms of suffering, and it is those, to which I was referring in my observation, that many parts of the modern Church, especially in the west, have an aversion: torture, beatings, imprisonment, persecution, vicarious sacrifice and so on. Certainly, none of these is pleasant; aversion to them seems quite natural.

However, neither our Lord, nor His followers in the early Church attempted to avoid them. Peter and John rejoiced in having suffered for His Name; Peter’s message to the young Church, “For this is thankworthy … suffering wrongfully …for even hereunto are ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.” And so did the young Church; many records survive that describe how they counted it all joy to partake in the sufferings of Christ – often being put to death for their fidelity, their faith in Him.

While this might seem foolish to us today – our mindset here in the west seems to have decided conclusively that all such imposed suffering is not only evil, but also to be avoided on our part by judicious use of diplomacy and common sense – there are many parts of Christ’s Body, the Church, that today are undergoing the same kind of persecution and suffering as did the early Christians. In his work with those parts of the Church, our own Fr. Peter has had to adjust his preconditioned western mindset when said persecuted Christians ask for us in the west to stop praying that the persecution will end. In fact, they are praying, while under persecution themselves, that we in the west might also begin to share with them in Christ’s sufferings. Fr. Peter will also observe that the most spiritually healthy parts of the Church today, are those very parts that are thus undergoing persecution.

In recognizing this, are we perhaps lead to a conclusion that suffering for our faith in Jesus Christ is an important part, some might even argue an essential part, of sanctification? In the Epistle to the Hebrews, an interesting phrase comes up in Chapter 2.10, “For it became Him, for Whom are all things, and by Whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” This should certainly strike us a just a little strange. Jesus, the captain of our salvation, is God Incarnate; isn’t it just a little unseemly to conclude that God Himself would require a process of perfecting that was brought about through suffering?

We’ve all heard many sermons, and the Prayer Book reminds us during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist that Jesus suffered for us, suffered death upon the Cross to be a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. His suffering was not only all-embracing, it was also necessary as it could be the only perfect offering for the sins of all mankind. And that is the gist of the passage from Hebrews. It is not that Christ needed to suffer to attain perfection Himself; but that His suffering, in its completeness, achieved the perfect atonement – our means to be made at one with God. The verses around it make it clear that it is not simply a passive issue of our thus being restored to fellowship with God through the perfect suffering and the Blood of the Cross; but that we are to be enlisted under the banner of that Cross, the captain of our army being Jesus Himself. And, rather than doing our utmost to avoid suffering, we must expect to suffer hardship as good soldiers of Christ. St. Paul, in his second letter to Timothy makes the statement that, “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

There are many aids to prayer that help to remind us that not all suffering in the form of persecution and hardship is evil. If the Bible teaches us to expect the same, then we should not do our utmost to avoid that which may in fact serve to effect our own sanctification. One of my constant companions for many years has been John Baillie’s “A Diary of Private Prayer,” which provides a combination of profound, joyful, convicting, thankful prayers for each morning and evening of the month. In the context of our thoughts today, on the twentieth morning, part of the prayers say, “When Thou callest me to go through the dark valley, let me not persuade myself that I know a way round.”

But most apropos today’s themes, I should like to share with you the entire prayers for the twenty-seventh morning:
“Grant, O most gracious God, that I may carry with me through this day’s life the remembrance of the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ my Lord.
For Thy fatherly love shown forth in Jesus Christ Thy well-beloved Son:
For His readiness to suffer for our sakes:
For the redemptive passion that filled His heart:
I praise and bless Thy holy Name.
For the power of His Cross in the history of the world since He came:
For all who have taken up their own crosses and have followed Him:
For the noble army of martyrs and for all who are willing to die that others may live:
For all suffering freely chosen for noble ends, for pain bravely endured, for temporal sorrows that have been used for the building up of eternal joys:
I praise and bless Thy holy Name.
O Lord my God, who dwellest in pure and blessed serenity beyond the reach of mortal pain, yet lookest down in unspeakable love and tenderness upon the sorrows of earth, give me grace, I beseech Thee, to understand the meaning of such afflictions and disappointments as I myself am called upon to endure. Deliver me from all fretfulness. Give me a stout heart to bear my own burdens. Give me a willing heart to bear the burdens of others. Give me a believing heart to cast all burdens upon Thee.
Glory be to Thee, O Father, and to Thee, O Christ, and to Thee, O Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Faith, suffering, sanctification. Thanks be to God for the example of the faith of the woman who had suffered an issue of blood twelve years, and who was made whole, holy, sanctified by Jesus. Thanks be to God for the faith of the ruler who had suffered the loss of his daughter whom Jesus restored to life, prefiguring the resurrection of all sanctified believers who put their trust in Him. Thanks be to God for the example of the lives of Saints, those whose faith, maintained through any and all kinds of both personal suffering and suffering on behalf of others – following the example of Christ – moved them along the path of sanctification, leaving us an unbroken trail of bread crumbs throughout Christian history to Him Who is the perfect and only Captain of our salvation.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005



Today we read from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, verses 15- . There is a concept in those verses which I want to take a look at this morning. Then I would like to turn to the Gospel passage we read on Friday, the feast day of St. Simon Zealotes and St. Jude, two of our Lord’s 12 Apostles. There is another concept in that passage, verses 21- of the Gospel according to St. John, Chapter 14, which contrasts dramatically with the first concept.

So, let us first delve into St. Matthew.

Then went the Pharisees and took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk. Obviously these men were out to get Jesus and St. Matthew is telling us, in fact, about the first of a series of attacks made on Our Lord in the last days of His earthly ministry. These attacks were, for the most part, subtle and would probably have worked with a mere mortal, entrapping him in the carefully set snares.

That is so characteristic of our enemy, the devil. When he wants to he can attack us with great stealth and we are unwise to dismiss him as anything but a highly intelligent entity, a malevolent intelligence operating with the sole purpose of separating us from God. Every temptation to which we yield is a victory for that dark force and victory of satan is a dart shot at the loving heart of Jesus Christ.

In verse 16, Matthew shows us the devil’s subtlety, And they sent out unto Him their disciples, with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that Thou art true and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest Thou for any man; for Thou regardest not the person of men.

You can scrape the flattery of those words with a spade. Yet it was so subtle an approach, so smooth in delivery and the language so covered with honey. The first part of this incident is actually best described in the words of Psalm 55, v21, The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.

It is so easy to be beguiled by flattery and so very important for the Christian to treat it with great suspicion. Why, because there is often a feeling of peace brought about by flattery and it is a truth that by peace satan destroys many. For that peace is transient and false and full of danger. Scripture teaches us that on many occasions.

Call to mind what happened to Samson. Was he destroyed by the armies of the Philistines? No! Samson was brought to ruin by the pretended love of a seductive Philistine woman.

Look also at the story of King Hezekiah in 2 Kings, chapters 18,19 and 20. He faced so much and survived, but his greatest mistake was caused not by the sword of Sennecharib or by the threats of Rab-shekah. It was caused by the flattering gifts and apparent kindness of the Babylonian envoys.

Hezekiah showed them, very unwisely, all the treasures of his kingdom. And Isaiah the Prophet told Hezekiah exactly what his mistake would cost.

Hear the word of the Lord, Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. 2 Kings 20:16-18.

Satan is never so dangerous as when he appears as an angel of light, so let us be on guard against the flatterer. The sweetest approach can hide the deadliest dangers and mask the face of the devil. Look at what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus, Our Lord was betrayed by a kiss from the traitor Judas.

There are, of course such things as genuine compliments and it behooves the practicing Christian to pass such compliments. They encourage and when sincerely meant are truly a form of blessing. But flattery springs from a different well and can bring nothing but poison and grief to the Christian soul which is open to it or which imparts it in misguided moments.

So that is the first concept, the peace of the devil, which is easily come by, but transient and destructive in the longer run and by which the devil destroys many.

Now let us turn to the second and diametrically opposite concept, expressly stated in St. John 14:27. Jesus says, to Judas the true Apostle, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you.

The peace of Jesus Christ. Even the words bring a glow of warmth to the believing heart.

Surely all human beings seek a state in which they are untroubled. In our terms this would mean the things which we so often work so hard to attain and to bequeath to our children – houses, land, artwork, money.

But Jesus had none of these things and he was only too aware of their transient nature and false seduction. Indeed He promises His disciples that their lives may be devoid of these things. When He first sent out the twelve, His words were, Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, nether shoes, nor yet staves. Mt. 10:9-10. They are to go out with nothing but the clothes they stand up in and trust in God to provide for their needs.

To the rich young man who asked Him how He could enter into the kingdom of heaven, He said, Go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Mt.19:21. When we get right down to it, our actual needs, as opposed to our wants, are very basic indeed. And Jesus promises that God, in whom we put our trust will look after those needs. Our hearts must be set on heaven, for which we are to follow the example of Our Lord.

Jesus goes further than telling us to reject worldly wealth. His promise is that we will face persecution. But bewareof men, he tells His Apostles in Mt.10:17, for they will deliver you up to the councils and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.

And in verse 21 He continues, And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.

What, you may be asking, do all these dire warning have to do with peace? The answer is provided in the very next sentence of Mt.10:22, but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

Redemption! The glory of Our Lord. His peace is not transient, but eternal. It must be earnestly sought and gladly worked for along the road to sanctification.

There may be few accompanying creature comforts, but with respect to the soul, Jesus can and does give us peace. The glory of this is shown in John 14:27 by His own description of that peace, in one single word, my!

My peace! It is His peace, the peace of spirit which Jesus has enjoyed by living a perfectly sinless life in unison with the will of The Father. And that tells us something about this peace which we need to understand or we may drive ourselves crazy with despair.

Unlike Our Lord, we are not sinless, so we have work to do. In John 14:21 we received the clue to that little detail. He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of My Father and I will love him and will manifest Myself unto him.

Our Lord’s peace, at least for most of us, is a journey. But it is a journey which we make hand in hand with the Son of God. It is a journey yearned for by the Father and made possible by His Grace. It is a journey for which He sends His Holy Spirit to guide and sustain us to the end. And it is a journey for which Jesus Christ intercedes with the Father on our behalf.

It starts with the freely offered gift of redemption, our past guilt removed by Jesus Christ, who at the same time opens to us access to God’s favour. That great victory cry on the Cross, It is finished! is our beginning.

God, through the Cross acknowledges our misery and gives us hope. Jesus reconciles us to God and that is the very foundation of His peace.

But just as a loving parent can offer a child a good education and the end result must involve the hard work of the child, so must we work for our peace. We must build on the sure foundation. Jesus, in and through His earthly life shows us what that work involves. He is our example, He is our light, He is our Truth. He is our way and our destination.

His peace is both our goal and our reward.

Brethren, Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you.

Peter Jardine+
Trinity 23, 2005