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

Thursday, August 31, 2006


The Publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me, a sinner. Luke 18:13.

There are some themes which arise again and again in Holy Scripture, in both Old and New Testaments. When this happens it should say to us that these messages are of particular importance.

Pay attention, O mortal man, your soul is at stake!

And you, preacher man, pay attention, your responsibility is pressing urgent!

In today’s reading from the Gospel according to St. Luke, there are a number of things which can be drawn out and spoken to, but the one I want to address is summed up in one word, contrition.

That word touches upon the Christian requirement of genuine repentance for our sins, but in some sense goes beyond it.

It incorporates that essential Christian quality of humility, without which neither repentance nor contrition are possible because the need for them cannot be recognised.

It is bursting with our need for God. Indeed, the absence of contrition is a very real barrier between us and God. Without contrition we are certainly without fear of the Lord.

In this brilliant little parable we read from Luke 18, Jesus teaches us about that barrier, shown so vividly in the words of the Pharisee. Jesus also teaches much about contrition in His oh so few words about the Publican, a man so sure of his own spiritual poverty that he hides in the shadows of the temple and casts his eyes down to the ground. Yet he seems to be aware that God sees into the shadows, even those shadows lurking in our own hearts. God be merciful to me a sinner. That cry is the Publican’s glory and it removes any option to view him as a pathetic figure. It also turns this parable into a teaching of abundant hope.

There was another man who was afraid to lift up his eyes for fear of God and his story, in the Book of Exodus gives us reason enough to pay attention to this theme of contrition.

The people of Israel are in bondage under the strong, but not friendly hand of Pharaoh. And they cried and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel and God had respect unto them. Ex.2:23-25.

So God calls out Moses, then a humble shepherd of no social standing or pretensions. While keeping his father-in-law’s sheep, Moses sees a bush burning, but not consumed by the fire.

And Moses said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And He said, draw not nigh hither: put thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground…….and Moses hid his face for he was afraid to look upon God. Ex.3:3-6.

Contrition is founded upon and rooted in a recognition of the awesome nature of God. It is not like standing on your dance partner’s foot and saying, “Oops, sorry dear!” Nor is it even like striking somebody and apologizing for that, no matter how sincerely.

No, this contrition is deeply spiritual and embodies the same fear of God which caused Moses to hide his face. Such fear of God is a healthy, life giving thing.

There is another, very important point to note in these verses from Exodus, namely the steadfastness of God. God remembers His promises, always and forever. And if we follow those promises through the Cross and beyond, we will see that the fear of God is not just healthy and life giving, but is also hope filled and carries with it the dawning of joy.

So the Psalmist could write, A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise. Ps.51:17.

Likewise the prophet Isaiah was moved to proclaim, For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Is.57:15.

These are immensely rich promises made through the prophet; rich enough, surely, to kindle a desire to drive out any inclination to be puffed up with our own imagined worth.

Later Isaiah returned to this subject with even greater emphasis. Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembleth at my word. Is.66:1-2.

Small wonder, then, that Jesus says of the Publican, I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. Our Lord’s very next words tell us that the Pharisee, in fact, was not justified at all. Jesus says, For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased.

In reality, we step off the narrow way of Jesus Christ the moment we give in to the temptation to compare and contrast ourselves to worldly men and worldly values. That is not to say that we have nothing to learn from those around us. God sends us many messages carried by many messengers.

But salvation through the Cross is salvation not of this world, but from this world.

And when we understand that, we will see that there is nothing pathetic in the figure of the Publican. Far from it. Jesus is teaching us of nothing less than the glory of contrition; the hope of contrition; the fundamental honesty of sincere, deeply felt contrition.

God be merciful to me, a sinner.

There is the cry which reaches the ear of Almighty God. It is the cry of the soul seeking salvation and an eternity in the presence of God. It is the cry of one who has come to the realisation that his help really does stand, entirely and only with Almighty God.

The Pharisee in this parable was talking to himself, listening to himself and emphasizing just how far removed from God he had placed himself.

The people of Israel did not get free because they told God what good slaves they were, or what good Israelites they were under bondage. In their agony, they cried, And their cry came up unto God…

I have not the faintest idea how God hears, but I do know what He hears and it is the cry born of true contrition. It is the property of mercy always to respond to that cry. That is the cry God wants to hear, made without guile, with no affectation or pretence, rent without reservation from the pure, unadulterated honesty of a truly broken and contrite heart.

Then, through the Grace of God, we may look, still in fear and trembling, to the promise of Jesus Christ to the contrite, He that humbleth himself shall be exalted. The cry of the Publican, the cry of the genuinely contrite heart is truly the cry of glory. God be merciful to me, a sinner.

Peter Jardine+
Trinity XI, 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006


Give an account of thy stewardship for thou mayest be no longer steward. Luke 16:2.

Dr. William Barclay describes the parable of the unrighteous steward as, a difficult parable to interpret. Fortunately for me I am today preaching, not teaching, and there is a difference, in that the preacher is not required to explain the specific meanings of a text, but rather to bring Jesus Christ into view through the monstrance of the Gospel.

This morning, I propose to look into the Christian concept of stewardship, a concept with very broad implications and one on which we can all rest assured we will one day be asked to give Almighty God an account.

Let me begin with the sense of panic in the response of the unrighteous steward when he is called by his master to give an account. What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me my stewardship.

We are all born with abilities and talents given to us by God. From one person to another they differ both in kind and, it may seem to us, in abundance. However, if we allow ourselves to look at the gifts given to others with twinges of envy, we are already on the way to becoming poor stewards of our own gifts. We cannot nurture our own gifts if that little green worm of jealousy is eating away at our hearts.

The responsibilities of Christian stewardship begin with ourselves. They require the recognition of what our God given talents are and thanking God for them. Nothing, I have found, stills the enemy more effectively than giving God thanks for what He has given me. The little green worm is thereby put to death.

What shall I do? Thank God for what He has given and He will pour out the help needed to use His gifts in accordance with His will. There is no other purpose to God’s gifts than to apply them to His will. So there is the rather sobering lesson in this parable that we may lose our stewardship in this life, simply by misusing the gifts we are given.

If that happens, we may still hang onto all the comforts of this world. The nice house, the fancy car, a fat bank account and more food than we can possibly eat, etc., etc., but spiritually we are destitute and helpless. I lose track of the number of people who I encounter who are, in this world’s terms, well off, but inside is an aching chasm they cannot fill. The missing elements are communion with God and a life spent walking in lockstep with His will.

Jesus says, He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Mt. 12:30.

The good steward will offer his God given talents back to God and from the bottom of his heart ask the Lord to use them for His purposes.

And there is another thing of which we are but stewards, our hearts - indeed our very beings. They belong to God and like the abilities which come with them, they are to be cherished and offered up to Him in His service.

God created them; they are His and as wise stewards, we will respect that, thanking God for making us exactly as we are. It is such a tragic error to want to be different, in the sense that we cannot all be nuclear physicists, or brain surgeons, or prime ministers or bishops.

If I am not the tallest or the most handsome man in the world, so what? Those are criteria of worldly importance. God sees us differently.

However, if I know that I am among the worst of sinners that is another matter. If I walk around looking like an unmade bed; if I fill my body with drugs, alcohol or junk food knowing the damage I may do, that too is another matter. Then I have to want to be different, because allowing myself to continue along such tracks shows no respect at all for what God has created.

Even more important is my responsibility as a good steward to nourish my heart and soul with the Word of God; to seek to do those things which are good for my soul in this life and which allow The Holy Spirit to prepare my soul for the next life.

In this most important respect, Jesus tells us how to be good stewards. He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me. John 14:21. And, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. John 14:23.

So St. Paul was moved to write, Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. 1Cor.3:16-17.

Now, I was tempted at this point to launch into one of my favourite subjects, stewardship of the environment. We are, of course, stewards of this world in which, through the Grace of God, we pass such a brief time, and the destruction around us of God’s creatures, plant and animal is terrible. But I will say no more about that today, for there is more that needs to be said about what I just started.

For the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

Those words of St. Paul mean exactly what they say and they place upon us the immense responsibility of caring for ourselves as nothing less than God’s temple.

What they do not do is to make of each of us an island. When we are baptised, we are baptised into the Body of Christ and we automatically become stewards of that body.

We are received into the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church and we automatically become stewards of that Church.

We are baptised into the faith of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and we automatically become stewards of the Cross.

The sacrament of baptism, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, confers upon us tremendous benefits.

The stewardship incurred at baptism imposes upon us tremendous responsibilities. We have no help in meeting these responsibilities except Almighty God and how we need His help in this modern world!

The events of last week have once again demonstrated the horrible dangers we have placed ourselves in. I use the collective “we” with great care, meaning Christendom in general. The virulent, hate filled genie of militant Mohammedanism has been let out of the bottle because too many Christians have ignored and do ignore the responsibilities of their stewardship. For decades now governments, corrupted by the fuzzy, debilitating notions of political correctness have been allowed by the people who elect them to erode and destroy the Christian values which underpinned the society in which we live. How terrifyingly pertinent are the words of our Lord, he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

And as those who are at least nominally Christians give up their foundational concepts of marriage, family and faith, the increasingly emboldened Mohammedans are demanding conformity to their values. They at least have beliefs and the genie will not easily be returned to the bottle. It will certainly not be put back by guns and missiles, but by strong, steadfast, living faith in Jesus Christ, spread far and wide in the most dynamic stewardship of the Gospel.

Now I am not about to suggest for one second that we in the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada and the worldwide TAC have anything to be smug about, but we can, at least, be thankful for the knowledge that we exist as such because some thirty years ago enough Anglican Christians were conscious of their responsibilities to draw the line on ecclesiastical liberalism. That was good stewardship.

In coming here today, we are each of us exercising our stewardship in the most profound way.

We are acknowledging in and through the ACCC the one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Our obedience serves the one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and serves God through that church.

We are acknowledging our membership in the Body of Christ through our collective worship. At the same time we are protecting and nurturing that body.

And we are acknowledging our stewardship of the Cross by kneeling in penitent humility before it to receive the precious gift given through the Cross: the most Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, broken and shed for us in His perfect, perpetual sacrifice.

Through that Sacrament we are given the strength to be good stewards of all God’s gifts. Jesus promises nothing less in His words, He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in me and I in him. John 6:56.

May God grant us the wisdom to be faithful in that which is least and the Grace to live as good stewards of all of His bounty. Amen.

Trinity IX, 2006
Peter Jardine +