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

Sunday, March 04, 2007

I believe; help my unbelief!

Fr. Peter's sermon on the Day of Prayer for Julianne:

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 1John 5:4.

We are approaching the end of our Day of Prayer for Julianne, but most certainly not the end of our prayers for her. We should all be leaving here filled with hope, a hope inspired by the promises of Jesus; a hope nurtured by the Holy Spirit.

What we have done today is to participate in a victory over evil. I say that with utter conviction because we were all moved to come here to pray and prayer is born of God and as St. John says, whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.

The world is a hostile place for Christians. Before sending out His apostles on their first mission, Jesus tells them, Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

Jesus is talking to his apostles, but it is extremely difficult for a Christian to hide their Christianity for long and His warning applies to us. He warns the men in no uncertain terms of the persecution they will encounter. They are being sent into a hostile world, in the midst of wolves. That is both a warning and a reminder of how they are to behave.

The warning is that they are being sent into harms way – sheep and wolves do not mix to dance merrily around the mulberry bush. We can each of us be met with evil at any turn and we should, as Christians expect it.

We also find in His words a reminder to maintain our Christian character, the character laid out in the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. St. Chrysostom says, So long as we are sheep we are victorious, though a thousand wolves surround us; but if we turn into wolves, we are beaten, for the aid of our Shepherd is withdrawn from us: He is the Shepherd, not of wolves, but of sheep.

It is not always easy to remain as sheep, especially when someone close to us has been severely hurt. But it is for our own good that we are told to be harmless as doves, or as Chrysostom says, to remain as sheep. We can never be separated from Jesus Christ, our great Shepherd as long as we are obedient to His commandments. And as long as we are not separated from Him, He will bring us through the worst of trials. Come unto me all that labour and are heavy laden and I will refresh you. What a wonderful promise that is.

Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. In the nineteenth century, Bishop Walsham How commented on these words, To unite together this wisdom and this innocence is indeed a hard thing. Wisdom without harmlessness is an awful gift. It is the very character of Satan. But harmlessness without wisdom is weak and powerless for good. The Christian must seek to be both wise in his dealing with others and also loving and gentle.

We cannot possibly accomplish something so hard without the help of God. For that, we must believe in Him and have faith that He will help.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world, and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. The faith required is faith in Jesus Christ, in God the source of all Love, the source of Divine healing.

This world seems at time to have all but abandoned belief in anything Divine. That is the surest path I know to utter despair and hopelessness and I will not accept it for one second.

I believe in my heart that I will one day, in God’s time, stand in front of Julianne and we will shake hands and introduce ourselves.

I believe that because of the deep love for her daughter which Valerie cannot hide and which our Loving God will not ignore.

I believe that because of the tears which occasionally escape down Tasha’s cheeks and which wash my heart with her compassion for her friend.

I believe that because of the quiet, loving dedication with which Jen works to help her friend.

But mostly I believe it because God is pure Love and I accept His promises without question.

There is a passage in the Gospel according to St. Mark, which follows immediately after the Transfiguration. The disciples of Jesus have failed to cast out an evil spirit from a young boy and he is grievously afflicted. The boy’s father says to Jesus, If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us. And Jesus said to him If you can! All things are possible to him who believes. Immediately the father cried, I believe; help my unbelief!

Jesus drives the spirit from the boy and later tells His disciples, This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.

We have prayed today, sincerely and honestly. We do not know if God will heal Julianne through the medical attention she is now receiving or by some other means. If any of us still cannot quite believe in her healing, let our cry be I believe; help my unbelief! But let us all leave here confident in the knowledge that Jesus promises, All things are possible to him who believes.

This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith!

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