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

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Day of Prayer for Julianne

Good morning and a very warm welcome to our visitors. Thank you for joining us today. We are here to make a small sacrifice of prayer to God our Father for Julianne, a young woman who many of us have not actually met. The purpose of this talk is to try to set the tone for our prayers and meditations. In doing that, I want to focus on our relationship with God and on our basic means of communicating with Him, which is prayer.

As you will see in the bulletin, we have organized the day around a number of Offices, interspersed with periods of private prayer. The Offices, which are ancient in origin, help to keep our minds fixed on God. They should also remind us that although we may have come here as strangers, that is the worldly view. God’s view; the Biblical, Christian view is that we are all members of the body of Christ and have therefore a huge amount in common. Two Christians should never be strangers, for, as St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, So we being many are one body in Christ and every one members one of another.

As Christians then, we are not strangers but are united in a bond of Love in and through Jesus Christ. We are bound by and through the Cross to one another and many things follow from that.

Let me say just a few words about what has brought us here today. Julianne was and remains the victim of an unprovoked and savage attack which took place in Banff on July 11th, 2005. She was left for dead and in a coma from which she has yet to recover fully. This was an unspeakably vile act perpetrated by what Valerie, Julianne’s mother described to me as a monster. I can only agree with Valerie’s description, especially as I am myself the father of three daughters.

However, and I fully recognize how difficult this is in circumstances such as these, Jesus is quite clear that we must forgive. He teaches us forgiveness not for the sake of the perpetrators, but for our own sakes because there is nothing so corrosive to the human soul as hatred and anger.

I want to say no more about the terrible violence of that day in July. We are not here to dwell on that, but to make our humble petitions to God and seek His healing grace. We are here to join ourselves to the hope which abides in membership of the Body of Christ.

What happened to Julianne matters most of all to Julianne herself, and that will always be the case. Julianne is, if you like, the point where the stone is dropped into the water of a calm lake. The ripples immediately encompassed her mother, father and sister, then other members of her family. Let us remember them frequently in our prayers today. What happened to Julianne matters almost as much to her family as it does to Julianne, and it will always matter to them.

The ripples then rapidly engulfed her friends, and it has been a revelation to me how much this terrible event matters to them. I met two of her friends through a box placed by one of them on the counter of a Kanata coffee shop to collect money for Julianne’s medical expenses. The simple message on that box moved me to want to do more.

Soon after, I met Jen and Tasha. I don’t yet know these young women well enough to understand how remarkable they are, but I already do know that they are doing remarkable things for their friend. They are living the commandment, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. They have taught me that the circle of victims in a crime of violence can be much larger than I imagined. Let us remember these very Christian young people in our prayers today.

And so the ripples keep spreading, now touching each of us in this church, where, through the grace of God, we are gathered to ask God to bestow healing of body and soul upon Julianne and healing of spirit upon her family and friends.

We are offering God both our prayers and the sacrifice of our time, not that there is really a distinction between the two. A sacrifice offered to God is always a form of prayer. Let us consider for a while what prayer means to those who would converse with the Almighty.

As Bishop Carl often reminds us, God is not some cosmic bellhop. We do not, or should not ask Him to do this or that for us, thinking we can reward Him with a few grubby bank notes if He complies. God created us and everything around us and He has no material needs, so we can offer Him no material rewards. Nor do we make demands on God on the mistaken assumption that He must give us what we want. Not even Jesus Christ always got what He asked for. In the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord asked three times for the cross to be taken from Him. God did not do that, but He did give His Son something much more important. He gave Jesus the victory over death in the Resurrection. Through the suffering of His Incarnate Son, God gave the world its Redeemer. Christian prayers never go unheard and are never ignored.

Now, if God needs nothing from us, He certainly wants something from us; He wants our love and obedience to His commandments. Prayer is very much a part of that, so much so that Jesus took the need for prayer for granted. The Gospels reveal that He prayed frequently, seeking quiet private places to do so on many of those occasions. He also instructed His disciples many times on the subject of prayer, generally with the underlying assumption that they would be praying, but could pray better.

Scripture teaches us that we need to pray for ourselves, but also that we need to pray for others. It is absolutely the right and required thing to do to pray for Julianne. Consider the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13. He comes to Jesus not for himself, but seeking a cure for his servant, his slave. As Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to Him, beseeching Him and saying, Lord, my servant is lying paralysed at home, in terrible distress. And He said to him, I will come and heal him. But the centurion answered Him, Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.

Two things should be noted in those verses. Firstly, the centurion sacrificed – he took time and made the effort to go to Jesus. We are all doing that here today, and I point that out not that we can take pride in it, but rather take comfort in it. It is what God wants. Secondly, when the centurion came to the Lord he petitioned Him on behalf of his paralysed slave. We are also doing that today, petitioning God on behalf of Julianne.

There are other relevant examples in the Gospels. In Luke 5:18-24 we read, And behold men brought in a bed a man who was paralysed, and they sought to bring him and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.

Once again there was the element of sacrifice on the part of the men who worked so hard to bring the paralytic to the Lord. Their petition was there also, but apparently silent. Nevertheless, Jesus knew the desires of their hearts.

In both the cases I have quoted, Jesus answered the petitions and cured the sick. This is so consistent with the property of mercy which is part of Divine Love. Jesus does not ignore the sick and those innocents who are injured by the evil of others. And in both cases I quoted, Jesus said it was their faith, the faith of those making the petitions and the sacrifices which resulted in the victims being cured. In the quiet periods today, it is surely worth contemplating that fact.

Let us pray, too, for the grace of faith, that our prayers for Julianne may find favour with God. It is through faith that we unite our wills with the will of God, and that is always what our prayer must seek to do. We cannot, ever, bend God’s will to ours or change God’s will in any way. God is not some cosmic bellhop who jumps when we demand he jump and fetches when we demand He fetch.

However, Scripture does make us promises.

St. James in his general epistle writes, The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. There are many things which can be said about a righteous man, and one of the more important is that he is righteous because his will is united with the will of God. St. James goes on to give us an example:

Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

There we have a case of one man, his will united with God’s, praying with conviction and passion and with dramatic results. Elijah believed that God would send rain, but still he felt it necessary to pray. So he went up to the top of mount Carmel and prayed, not once but seven times. And oh, how it rained. So we must pray with serious intent.

We must also pray believing that God will grant us what we ask. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a serpent? If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father, who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

God is always more willing to give than we are ready to ask. I was in a conversation recently with a small group, when someone complained that they did not have the gift of healing. A small, humble priest from Newfoundland quietly asked the complainant, “Have you ever asked for it, believing you would receive it?” There was a rather stunned silence.

So we must pray, believing that God will grant us what we ask.

I said at the beginning of this talk that we are all members of the body of Christ and have therefore a huge amount in common. In the Epistle of St. James, we learn that prayer should unite us in the body of Christ. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another that ye may be healed. Individual prayer is so important, but what St. James wrote is an invitation to pray in the Body of Christ and for the body of Christ. Julianne is a member of that body and a member in special need of our fervent, heart felt prayers

Few have understood the call to corporate prayer, united with the will of God, as well as St. Chrysostom, whose prayer we use in the daily offices. Let me close this talk with his prayer.

Almighty God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto thee; and dost promise that when two or three are gathered together in thy name thou wilt grant their requests; fulfil now, O Lord the desires and petitions of thy servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen

Labels: , ,