September 20, 2011

Wednesday after the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Wednesday after the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, Ember Day


Morning - Ps. 17, 2 Sam. 15:1-12, 2 Cor. 3
Evening - Ps. 18, Mt. 2:13

Today is St. Matthew's Day. It is also the first of the Autumn Ember Days in which we pray for many to offer themselves to the ministry of the Gospel of Christ. This makes it a very curious day, for St. Matthew's Day is a feast day, while an Ember Day is a fast day. According to the Prayer Book, the Feast of St. Matthew takes precedence over an Ember Day. It also gives special prayers for both, and I see no reason not to include both in our private and family prayers.

Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

O Almighty God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Matthew from the receipt of customs to be an Apostle and Evangelist; Grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires, and inordinate love of riches, and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Ember Days At the Four Seasons

O Almighty God, who hast committed to the hands of men the ministry of reconciliation; We humbly beseech thee, by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, to put it into the hearts of many to offer themselves for this ministry; that thereby mankind may be drawn to thy blessed kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

2 Cor. 3

Letters of recommendation have long been used to introduce someone to a person or group, and it seems some have come to Corinth with such letters and attempted to lead and teach the church. But Paul says he needs no such letter. The Corinthians themselves are his letter, and all who wish to know about his ministry may read it in them (1-3).

But they are much more than simply a letter of Paul. The Corinthians are an epistle of Christ (3:3). It is He who has made them what they are. Paul writes what every true minister of Christ knows, that "we are not sufficient of ourselves." It is not we who move the Church by the force of our personalities or the power of our logic and speech. It is God who moves people, using us as tools. In His hand we become sufficient only because He uses us to lead people to the means of grace. A minister is very much like a waiter in a restaurant. He brings the food to the people, but it is the food that nourishes and sustains them. In 1 Corinthians Paul compares ministers to farm labourers. One plants, another waters, but it is God who causes the Gospel to take root in your hearts and bear the fruit of faith (1 Cor. 3:5-7). Even a minister's ability to lead people to the means of grace is a gift from God. He is our sufficiency (3:5) and He "hath made us able ministers of the new testament" (3:6).

Verses 6-13 make two points contrasting the Old Testament law and the New Testament Gospel. First, the ministry of the law was given with great glory (3:7). We all know of the events at Sinai, and Paul reminds us that Moses covered his face with a veil because the people could not look upon him who had seen God's glory. Yet the law was unable to give life (3:6). It revealed sin, but it also showed the inability of an animal sacrifice to cover sins. Second, the ministry of the New Testament is more glorious for it is the ministry of the Spirit and of life. Yet Paul wears no veil to cover its glory. He does not attempt to hide it from anyone. Rather, he calls attention to it. He proclaims it with "great plainness of speech" (3:12).

14-16 refer to the common Jewish belief that Christ is not the Messiah. It is as though they are wearing a veil, a blindfold, which prevents their "seeing" Christ. Though the blindfold will be removed, it remains, "even unto this day" (15).

If the letter of the law revealed people's sin and our inability to atone for it, the Spirit reveals that God Himself can and has atoned for it. The Old Testament law anticipates with faith, that God will somehow accept those who trust in Him. On the basis of His own actions, He will do for them what the blood of bulls and goats can never accomplish. He will atone for their sins and receive them fully into His Kingdom. We know He accomplished this through Christ, for He is the Spirit who removes the blindfold from those who believe. In Him there is liberty from the dead letter of the law, and in Him we behold the glory of the Lord. We behold Him now as in a glass, not perceiving Him fully and clearly. But we are being changed into His image, the same image we see dimly now, but will one day see face to face (3:17-18).