August 25, 2019

The Tenth Sunday after Trinity:

Every now and then I am struck by the brilliance of the way the tradition pulls together readings, prayers and psalms. This is one of the weeks when it seems at a glance like a thoroughly bizarre grouping. But then, when you’ve sat with the readings for a time, the connections begin to become clear.

The Gospel reading for today is Christ’s cleansing of the temple in Luke. It’s a text that always tempts me to find faults in how churches “do church.” And naturally there are plenty of faults to be found. But the day’s Collect invites us to consider another aspect of this story. Listen:

Let thy merciful ears, O Lord,
be open to the prayers of thy humble servants;
and that they may obtain their petitions
make them to ask such things as shall please thee;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The House of Prayer

Let’s turn our attention back to the Gospel account. It begins with Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. This significant city, the city that housed the temple, did not recognize him and there were dark days ahead for it. And then Jesus goes into the temple. The temple is the central place of worship, the place where faithful witness should be most evident, the place where people are to be most focussed upon God. We know what happened. Jesus saw the chaos of marketplace that had taken over the outer court and he “cast them out.” So where is the connection between Jesus’ indignation and today’s collect? It’s in the words that he spoke, when he said, “My house shall be a house of prayer.”

Prayer. The sincere heart seeking the Father – this is what the temple was to be about. The sacrifices and laws were all inaugurated to align God’s people with him. But here the trappings of faith had become a distraction from faith.

Setting Aside Distractions

The readings for Trinity 10 invite us to set aside distractions, both those inside and outside of the church. Consider these selections from the psalms which form part of the day’s Gradual (Psalm 137:1-6) and Introit (Psalm 55:1-8,22):

By the rivers of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion…
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you…
Give ear to my prayer, O God;
and do not hide Yourself from my supplication…
Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you… (NASB)

All of the psalms are prayerful. Whether we are grieving or rejoicing (or experiencing any other emotion on the human spectrum), the psalms always help us to orient that experience towards God. But today’s selections are a call to the broken-hearted to cast their very selves upon the mercy of the Lord.

A Realigned Heart

Forget the distractions. (Or if you’re like me – forget about your need to identify and try to solve them all). Simply come to God in prayer. Simply remember that the point of all these things is to call you back to him, to orient you to him, to align your heart with his. It is in such a place of harmony with our Maker that we may actually hope to be able to “ask such things as shall please him.”

Let thy merciful ears, O Lord,
be open to the prayers of thy humble servants;
and that they may obtain their petitions
make them to ask such things as shall please thee;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


 

August 25, 2019
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